On truth and politics

The Guardian’s Cambridge Analytica files.

Read the thread on Rob Blackie’s tweet for a bit more balance

Django pioneer Simon Willison highlighted this great thread

Who needs the truth? By The Aspen Institute


Throwback gadget: Bose Wave Music System

It is a little disingenuous to call the Bose Wave Music System a throwback gadget, mainly because Bose still makes it. It would be reasonable to call it a design classic. There are benefits to picking up a 2006 model Bose Wave Music System, rather than paying the premium of a new device.

BOSE Wave music system専用iPod接続キット

Bose Wave System timeline

The original Bose Wave System was launched back in 1984; this was back when Sony was king due to the Walkman, digital wasn’t really on the horizon with the Discman only launching same year. The Acoustic Wave 1 (AW1) was a new take on the boom box radio that was ubiquitous in households and workplaces at that time. The AW1 featured a cassette deck and a two band radio.

Eight years later digital finally arrived when Bose switched out the cassette for a top-loading CD player instead.

In 1993, the Bose Wave System shrank from about the size of a medium sized boom box to something about as tall as an iPod Classic but featured radio only and was called the Wave Radio.

Five years later a slot loading CD player was integrated. In 2004, the CD player also accepted MP3 based discs and Boselink connectivity.


Boselink is unique in consumer electronics in terms of the expandability it allows. It was originally designed as a communications protocol for multi-room sound systems, but is also useful for connecting modules that extend the functionality of the basic Bose Wave System. Compatible accessories include:

  • Multi-CD drive
  • Soundlink – playback of music which is streamed to the device over Bluetooth
  • DAB module – UK-only adapter allowing reception of digital radio as well as AM and FM signals

Bose also offered an iPod kit, which charges your iPod Classic and plays back the music. There is a replacement remote for the Bose Wave Music System which integrates basic iPod playback controls.

Vintage over new

The key benefit of a vintage Bose Wave System over a new device is the display. New devices have a back lit LCD display which wash out and aren’t as legible as the vintage vacuum fluorescent displays.


Secondly, you still enjoy the ‘big box’ sound created by the diminutive size of the Bose Wave Music System. They use use a folded waveguide, which is a series of passages from the speaker driver to the speaker grill. This attempts to replicate sound from larger systems. Bose claims the waveguide “produces full, clear stereo sound from a small enclosure by guiding air through two 26” folded wave guides.” The design of the wave guides has changed minimally over the years.

My casual listening at home is based on two systems. A 12 year old Apple iPod Hi-Fi A1121, which works as a centre speaker for my TV when I need it. It takes audio in via TOSLink and gives a better sound than most sound bars that I’ve listened to.

I use a Bose Wave Music System of a similar age to the iPod Hi-Fi with the DAB module connected via BoseLink and iPod adaptor as my go to radio around the house. It is the default provider of background music and up to the minute news. It provides a better sound than most of its newer BlueTooth enabled competitors. It wins out over the Apple iPod Hi-Fi, because of its ability to play digital radio and hide out of the way on book shelf.

I then use a dedicated hi-fi for serious music listening of CDs and vinyl records.

Chinese smartphone eco-system for beginners

Ok this isn’t the most technical video in terms of its review of the Chinese  smartphone eco-system and it doesn’t touch on the WeChat eco-system, but its a good introductory video for westerners by Winston Sterzel, a YouTuber living in Shenzhen. It focuses on only the top domestic Chinese smartphone brands.

If I was looking to explain Chinese smartphone dynamics to a western client, this video is as good an introduction as any to the hardware side of the business.

Here are the key points I’d highlight and additional comments that I would add to the film.

Mobility in the working population drove Chinese smartphone adoption

The transitory nature of the Chinese workforce following China’s opening up has mean’t that many people are migrants and many only return home once a year (for lunar new year) if they are lucky. Staying in touch is critical to keep families together. Secondly being migrants, having a ‘computer’ that you can carry makes more sense than a traditional PC. Finally, the price point of smartphones puts the internet in the hands of pretty much anyone who wants one. These three factors explain why smartphones took off so dramatically in China. This started in the urban areas, but then migrants brought them home to relatives and gave them away as Chinese new year gifts.

China Mobile had a government mandate to build out connectivity into even the most rural areas in China. Data packages and the applications that run on it like WeChat made telecommunications even cheaper and easier.

The smartphone is where the majority of Chinese online shopping takes place, how families keep in touch and are starting to be a tool for the delivery of government services.

The price-value balance of smartphones

The development of the iPhone had an unintended on the Chinese smartphone contract manufacturers. If we go back to the early Samsung Galaxy models from the S to the S4; the industrial design of these phones owed a lot to Nokia. They had replaceable storage with micro SD cards and a replaceable battery with a battery hatch in plastic. If you dropped the phone the hatch may pop off. This was by design as it got rid of the some of the energy from the fall and the frame had a degree of flex to protect the innards. This is one of the reasons why Nokia 3310 feature phones ran and ran. The face and back might pop off your phone if you dropped it; but they could easily be snapped back on.

Manufacturing phones of that nature also helps with scaling up manufacturing based on mouldings.

Apple didn’t bother with external batteries, which at the time sparked a huge controversy. Their battery life was awful and most working stiffs kept their phone charging from their office PC during the day. By comparison I had a desktop charger with previous Ericsson and Nokia phones, along with a few spare batteries and felt comfortable going on holiday for a few days with a spare charged battery in a zip loc bag and no phone charger. Up until the 6 plus, Apple’s battery has been a real pain. 

So Apple differentiated by done what seemed like an insane idea of using a CNC (computer numeric controlled) machine to make the phone chassis. This is like a robot version of the machine tools that you would have used in shop class individually making each phone chassis.

Apple tried this out with the stainless steel ‘belly band’ of the 4 series phone and then perfected it with the 5 series. I suspect the reason why they moved from stainless steel to aluminium alloy for manufacturing was to balance durability with optimising manufacturing time.

Over time these machines move from the Apple production lines onto another product. Soon you can’t be the smartphone chassis manufacturing business unless you have this capability. Apple’s machines may have been sold on, but there was probably an increase in the CNC machine makers manufacturing capacity as well.

So all of the smartphones shown, whether it cost £80 or £800; none of them felt cheap or had a ‘China penalty’ in terms of case design.  This has affected the market in the Chinese smartphone eco-system. They are more durable, but there is less incentive to go premium when a cheap or medium priced phone looks and feels this good.

The durability of modern Chinese smartphones might be one fo the reasons why sales in smartphones have declined year-on-year. I’d argue a second reason is WeChat; so long as you can use WeChat your smartphone is fine. WeChat has had a similar effect on Chinese smartphones to what the web had on western PC sales over the past two decades – computers had become about as useful as they were going to be and performance became less of an issue.

Chinese smartphone market consolidation

Winston kind of alluded to it in his video but Oppo, Vivo and OnePlus are all related to BBK Electronics; a longtime Chinese phone and consumer electronics manufacturer. When I first went to visit China I bought a BBK ‘keitai’ style clamshell feature phone. At that time BBK competed with international players like Nokia or Samsung and domestic brands like Ningbo Bird. (Ningbo Bird was the largest manufacturer in China from 2003 – 2005).

Now they make everything from cheap TVs and speakers under the Memorex brand, to smartphones and high end Blu-Ray players as Oppo.

In the smartphone sector, they operate under three main brands. OnePlus is aimed at international users and kind of similar to Xiaomi in terms of the balance that it strikes between technology, features and price. Oppo is more of a Samsung or Huawei analogue. Vivo was launched to have a lower price youthful brand.

Between BBK, Xiaomi and Huawei you now have most of the Chinese smartphone eco-system, by value and sales volume. Just a few years ago there would have been far more players that would have merited a review including the following the companies and their sub-brands:

  • ZTE
  • Lenovo
  • Meizu
  • Coolpad
  • TCL

These are still big businesses, and I am not denigrating these brands. The analyst reports show that the Chinese smartphone eco-system is undergoing rapid consolidation; in the same way as Sony and HTC have been dwarfed by Samsung and Huawei.

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

What Siri creator Norman Winarsky thinks of Apple’s Siri now — Quartz – not terribly surprising

What are creative strategy craft skills? – David J Carr – Medium – well worth a lunchtime read

But Where Will the Mall Walkers Go? – Racked – interesting how malls public private space role isn’t discussed that much in the retail apocalypse

Best smartphone cameras: iPhone X, iPhone 8, Samsung Galaxy S8 – Business Insider – this must be a blow to the likes of Huawei, I’d consider using this in attack ads depending on market dynamics

Geneva Auto Show – Own goals | Radio Free Mobile – I’d also argue that the exclusive focus on Li-ion batteries rather than hydrogen fuel cells is also an issue

BlackBerry suing Facebook for patent infringement | CNBC – “Blackberry’s suit sadly reflects the current state of its messaging business. Having abandoned its efforts to innovate, Blackberry is now looking to tax the innovation of others. We intend to fight,” Facebook general counsel Paul Grewal said – you see Facebook has sucked the blood out of other businesses for too long. I have little sympathy with them in this suit. It will be interesting to see how robust BlackBerry’s patents are and whether it would be cheaper for Facebook to pay them off or buy the business outright. The question is who is next after Facebook in Blackberry’s legal sights?

Range Rover’s $295K SV Coupe Has 2 Doors, Makes Some Sense | WIRED – I’d personally prefer an old Range Rover CSK, but it makes sense

Toyota set to end production of diesel cars | RTE – hydrogen fuel cells make more sense than lithium ion batteries

Japanese “mommy” team gives wake-up calls to adults so they won’t be late for work【Video】 – inspired idea by Japanese mobile network Au

This Chinese billionaire felt lost in US without WeChat, mobile payments | South China Morning Post – The chairman of Legend Holdings, the controlling shareholder of Lenovo, said China was now comparable to Japan and ahead of the US in terms of mobile internet technology, digital content and innovative business models.“If you haven’t stayed abroad for a long time, you might not understand [the difference],” said Liu, citing his recent experience in the US.
His insights give credence to how Chinese technology companies have cultivated a hi-tech universe so large that it exists almost exclusively on its own – sustained by the country’s 1.4 billion people – but cut off from the rest of the world by Beijing’s Great Firewall, which blocks content not approved by the government. – the problem is that Chinese systems are ‘Galapagos’ technologies

Time for news to fight back | The AustralianMark Ritson arguing that that agencies may be pushing clients into digital media because it can result in greater commissions for the agencies — in some cases almost 3 times greater than for traditional media (paywall)

Trinity P3 and Mark Ritson analysis: Digital commissions more profitable for media agencies – Campaign Brief Australia – commission-based fees, incentives, free ad space and bonuses media agencies can earn as a percentage of an advertiser’s ad spend range from about 7 per cent to 10 per cent with Google and Facebook on average, whereas television, radio, newspapers and outdoor media pay about 3 per cent.

That’s the key finding from an analysis of regional and global agency deals by global marketing management consultancy Trinity P3 and Mark Ritson

Balenciaga is Putting its Money Where its Logo-Covered Hoodie Is for F/W 2018 | The Fashion Law – garments on the brand’s runway bore a phone number, +33156528799, which turns out to be Balenciaga’s “new hotline.” Call the number and you can answer a 20-question survey, inquiring about your age, primary language, height, and shoe size, as well as your favorite form of transportation, type of music, season, taste (your options are: Bitter, Salty, Sour, Sweet, or Umami), and so on.

A way for Balenciaga to better understand its customers? Maybe. Considering that the message is ends with the following note: “Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. All data will be erased now,” I, for one, am guessing this is more interactive experience than fact gathering mission. If we have learned anything over the past several years, it is that “experiences” are everything to the modern-day consumer – I can imagine a choir of marketers howling in a symphony of pain about this

Alibaba rival JD.com posts first annual profit as a public company | TechCrunch – The company’s fiscal profit was helped by a surprise $35 million profit in Q1 and a lucrative Q3 quarter in which it posted a RMB 1 billion ($151 million) profit thanks to its own efforts on Single’s Day, China’s online shopping bonanza. The company posted a RMB 909.2 million (US$139.7 million) loss for Q4, but that marked a 28 percent decrease year-on-year.

While Alibaba has a higher profile — with enormously profitable quarters — JD.com has quietly built out its e-commerce by expanding into financial services, offline retail and more

Silicon Valley Is Over, Says Silicon Valley – The New York Times – In recent months, a growing number of tech leaders have been flirting with the idea of leaving Silicon Valley. Some cite the exorbitant cost of living in San Francisco and its suburbs, where even a million-dollar salary can feel middle class. Others complain about local criticism of the tech industry and a left-wing echo chamber that stifles opposing views. And yet others feel that better innovation is happening elsewhere – like Shenzhen? I think a lot of the problem with Silicon Valley is that it doesn’t build hardware any more. Bright people are mobile for the right pay, what you can’t easily do is the kind of commercialisation and manufacturing speed as a feedback loop like you see in Southern China

Smartphone users are spending more money each time they visit a website – Recode – The amount of money people spent per visit to online retailers has increased 27 percent since the beginning of 2015, according to new data from Adobe Analytics. Meanwhile, the length of smartphone website visits has actually declined 10 percent

World Consumer Rights Day is Back. Prep Your PR Team | Jing Daily – it will be interesting to see who the government wants to lash out at this year, there is expectations that it will be luxury brands

Meet the billionaire millennial pouring money into British fashion… and she’s only 27 | Telegraph Online‘My generation has completely different shopping habits,’ says Yu. ‘People born in the 1960s and ’70s buy into established brands such as Dior and Chanel. For them, it’s about showing status and where they fit into society. But my generation isn’t into logos – it’s not cool, it’s too obvious. [And] we prefer to shop online. We’ve become very interested and hungry for young, emerging designers.’

P&G’s Marc Pritchard calls for ‘fewer project managers’ at agencies as he vows to destroy ‘maze of complexity’  – “For media, data and analytics is enabling us to bring more media planning in-house, replacing multiple layers,” said Pritchard. “When it comes to buying, our purchasing people can negotiate with the best of them, so we’re doing more private marketplace deals in-house. And if entrepreneurs can buy digital media, why can’t the brand team on Tide, Dawn and Crest be entrepreneurs and do the same? They can, and they will.”

He explained that P&G wants and needs brilliant creatives, and will invest in such talent. But “creatives represent less than half of agency resources, because they’re surrounded by excess management, buildings and overhead.”

Where Millennials end and post-Millennials begin | Pew Research Center – defining gen-y and gen-z

The advertising industry post (prompted by WPP’s 2017 financial results)

Sometimes the most straightforward posts take the longest to write. When I started on this one last week the big question in the minds of people who watch the big advertising conglomerates is are WPP numbers a company problem or an industry problem?

Fortune Global Forum 2013

WPP is looking to simplify its structure with a view to becoming a more agile and transparent business from a client perspective.

Or as it was put in the New York Times

WPP plans to accelerate a programme to simplify the business by aligning digital systems, platforms and capabilities to provide bespoke teams for its clients as opposed to the different agencies that currently compete with each other to win contracts.

Other conglomerates, notably Publicis had already started on this path when it started realigning the group under the ‘Power of One’ vision. WPP is bigger with a fuller offering and wider range of specialisms than many of its peers, no one can be under the illusion about the size of this undertaking.

Let’s talk about the tectonic plates shifting around beneath the feet of ALL  the large advertising and marketing combines:

  • Interpublic Group (IPG)
  • Omnicom
  • Havas
  • Publicis
  • WPP
  • Dentsu

The tectonic plates are:

  • The Four
  • Amazon
  • The decline of brand marketing
  • The new competition
The Four

The Four is a label that Professor Scott Galloway put on Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook. All of whom he considered to be monopolists that created value for their shareholders by putting the ‘real world economy through a shredder.

In this case I would swap out Amazon and Apple for Alibaba and Tencent, but the allusion to a quartet of horsemen portending a digital apocalypse is a useful allegory for the advertising and marketing sector.  Amazon deserves a section of its own later.

Galloway’s predictions of their destructive power led to an accurate prediction of WPP’s share price tumble this week. (see the video below)

Correlation does not prove causality however — it doesn’t mean that he got the right numbers for the right reasons.

Depending whom you believe Facebook and Google are responsible for 90 percent of online advertising growth outside of China. This represents a massive concentration of media power. It has implications for the creative and planning functions of an agency. Google and Facebook also run much of the advertising technology that purchase are made on. This has decimated much of the advertising technology sector and made it harder to differentiate media planning and buying based on the technology stack.

1707 - ad industry

L2 came up with this research last year based on Google and Facebook revenue targets. If they hit their numbers they would be treating around 14,193 jobs. But it would mean that the corresponding projected number of jobs lost in the advertising industry would be roughly the equivalent of every man and woman around the world employed at vehicle maker Nissan. And that’s just 2017.

L2’s calculations don’t take into account China where the advertising industry has been digitising at a much faster rate than in the west with the bulk of growth going to companies controlled by Tencent or Alibaba.

Given that most of the agencies within WPP and its peers operate on a billable hour model; this represents a considerable potential loss of value. Since the number of people directly equates to revenue.

The consolidation of online media also means that many clients will look to take back control of their media planning and buying process. The argument goes something along the lines of ‘a consolidated media landscape allows for consolidated buying by a global media trading desk due to the inherent simplicity in suppliers. The data comes from the inhouse data management platform and the media vendor (Facebook, Google, Tencent or Alibaba)‘.

The always on creative needed to fuel this process is also being increasing done in inhouse studios, in partnership with their creative agencies as a kind of hybrid model.

This is what Marc Pritchard meant when he talked about taking back control of Procter & Gamble’s marketing as part of a process to save $1.2bn by 2021.  In the latest financial results, WPP claimed that their media buying margins had not suffered – only creative had.


At the time of written Jeff Bezos is worth about 112 billion dollars, or just under double the annual defence budget of the UK for 2018. Amazon impacts the advertising and marketing industry in multiple ways.

It is starting to become a big player in online advertising in its own right. I think it would be fair to say that this competition to Google is welcome for the marketing conglomerates judging by Sir Martin Sorrell’s commentary on the likes of CNBC.

Amazon has decimated the high street. Toys R Us, Borders Group, Tower Records, Radio Shack, Maplins are just some of the names which have disappeared. It took a good number of years for people to realise that retailers are locked in a zero sum game when Amazon competes against them. Amazon has unique access to exceptionally cheap capital via its shareholders. There have been companies who have beaten it back like Alibaba’s Taobao and TMall in China. But the company has built up a huge amount of retail power and decimated brands that would have been advertising agency clients.

Amazon has become the default search engine for buying things. This has already displaced up to 20 percent of Google searches depending on whom you believe. It also means that they can place imitation goods and private label goods against branded products.

Amazon has got great data. Amazon has data at the centre of its business what consumers like, what they don’t like, what sells well on marketplace resellers. This has driven a number of the product decisions:

  • Increasing customer basket sizes
  • Expanding into new areas by screwing over marketplace resellers
  • Focusing their efforts on private label products which directly impacts branded products across categories. Amazon Basics is the most obvious private label to consumers, but there are many more where the link isn’t so obvious

Depending on your brand category the answer may be:

  • Owning your own retail chain like Apple or LVMH’s DFS Group
  • Direct sales and subscription services have piqued the interest of FMCG brands like Dollar Shave Club

All of this impacts the advertising sector. For more information on the power of Amazon, I can recommend Scott Galloway’s The Four.

The decline of brand marketing

The relative decline of brand marketing has been driven by a number of factors, some of these factors are good and some aren’t.

Let’s talk about the good reasons first of all.

  • ‘Performance marketing’ driving customers directly to a sale has been transformed by the rise of modern online advertising techniques including search advertising and retargeting. Retailers can zero in on intent to a much greater degree than shopping television or direct response print adverts ever could. Google and social media have turned into reputation platforms which then displayed below-the-line spend from the likes of public relations agencies. This was happening at a time when journalist employed by publications have declined; implying a natural progression
  • At least some consumers can’t be reached through traditional media channels with sufficient frequency for brand advertising. Social media, online video and banner ads make sense as part of an omnichannel approach

The bad reasons:

  • The focus on ROI rather than profits has meant that a balance longer term brand building and shorter term sales has fallen out of kilter. Marketing then becomes a reductive process. To use a farming analogy; its like moving from arable farming with crop rotation to slash and burn. This is particularly noticeable in the way private equity management has affected fast moving consumer brands under its control. Zero-based budgeting is seen as a source of cost cutting rather than ensuring the efficient and effective use of marketing resources
  • Digital first strategies – for many marketers this has meant a move from media-neutral, let the communications problem define the channels used to a digital dogma. I make my living with digital media, but I recognise the flexibility required in thinking to deliver an effective strategy

It isn’t about one approach over another but finding balance that works for sales now and in the future.

The new competition

The rise of digital advertising has seen business services expand ways that we couldn’t predict. Advertising agencies like Ogilvy understood the potential for digital early on. Consultancies were focused on systems integration and the use of technologies to change business functions. As they became interconnected internally and externally; the progression into marketing made sense.

A reduction in creative budgets caused marketing agencies to move into areas like service design. Consultancies have looked to inject creativity into their values and skills set by mirroring the kind of acquisition strategy that built the marketing conglomerates.

In the meantime technology companies, notably Adobe have treated marketing like any other business function with a sale conducted at the c-suite level just like Oracle or similar. In many respects this move is understandable as companies use a data management platform (DMP) to derive audience insights and improve their digital marketing. This isn’t vastly different from historic data warehousing and data mining applications.

The enterprise software companies allow large companies to do internally what they have previously asked media agencies to do.

More information

WPP raises spectre of adland stagnation – Breakingviews (paywall)
WPP Vows to Do Better After Weak Results, Nervous Outlook Send Shares Plunging – The New York Times (paywall)
I Cannes – L2 Research
P&G brand chief vows to ‘take back control’ from agencies | FT (paywall)
Sorrell admits creative is hurting more than media as WPP shares plunge | CampaignLive (paywall)
Amazon is threatening Google’s ad space monopoly, Martin Sorrell says | CNBC