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Twitter: Media – Twitter’s guide to getting the most out of the platform

Why MTR is looking to upgrade its fare collection system | HKEJ Insights – this about Chinese mobile payment system compatability

Looking Through the Eyes of China’s Surveillance State – The New York Times  – I tried the glasses out on a group standing about 20 feet away. For a moment, the glasses got a lock on a man’s face. But then the group noticed me, and the man blocked his face with his hand. The minicomputer failed to register a match before he moved. Seconds later, the people scattered. Their reaction was somewhat surprising. Chinese people often report that they’re comfortable with government surveillance, and train stations are known to be closely watched

Amazon crashes just minutes into Prime Day | The Drum  – makes you wonder about AWS availability and uptime…

Recommendations for a marketers bookshelf


My recommendations for a marketers bookshelf is based on my own reading. My own experience is very consumer, brand communications and behavioural change focused. Here’s some recommendations, they aren’t in a ranking or grouped in a particular order.

Most marketing communications projects are trying to create some sort of behavioural change in the audience, so understanding more about persuasion has got to be a pretty handy thing right? Robert Cialdini  has two great works:

How Brands Grow part 1 and part 2 – pretty much the modern marketers bible for B2C brands of various stripes. Byron Sharp distills down decades of evidence-based research that has been carried out by Ehrensberg-Bass Institute of Marketing Science attached to the University of South Australia. The research institute has got a who’s who of corporate sponsors supporting their work and using their data:

  • General Mills
  • Grupo Bimbo
  • Procter & Gamble
  • Red Bull
  • Unilever

You get the idea. If the research is good enough for these brands, it’s good enough for you.

A key part of planning is working out that insight which will speak to your target consumers. Trends books are sometimes a handy short cut to creating a first draft of a hypothesis. You can do worse than leave through pollster Mark Penn’s Microtrends, Microtrends Squared and Microtrends Cubed that he has built up. If you’re thinking about transformation then Kevin Kelly’s The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future is the Microtrends for digital transformation. Tom Doctoroff’s What Chinese Want: Culture, Communism, and China’s Modern Consumer – is a another great primer.

The Long And the Short of It by Les Binet and Media in Focus: Marketing Effectiveness in the Digital Era. Binet is a respected communications planning expert, he is currently head of effectiveness at Adam & Eve DDB. He has published some of the best works on marketing effectiveness for the IPA.

If you studied marketing in college David A. Aaker is probably a familiar name. His Strategic Marketing Management book is often an introductory core course text. It used to double as a doorstop in a lot of dorm rooms that I visited. If you want to refresh your memory on branding he has written an accessible primer to recharge long lost lecture memories: Aaker on Branding: 20 Principles That Drive Success.

Truth, Lies and Advertising – Jon Steel’s work on account planning is that rare thinking; a very readable text book. I like to go back to it to boil things down to first principles and forget complexity.

When you’re looking for inspiration, there are two good approaches:

  • Go lateral. Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies isn’t a book, but a set of 100 cards. Eno periodically suffered writers block in the studio and these cards are a successful approach that he developed over time with collaborator Peter Schmidt. It also works for finding your way through planning
  • Look back into time. If you are looking back into time, I would recommend Sun Tzu’s The Art of War if you are looking for inspiration on strategic approach. Buy the cheapest copy that you can get in print. Mine is covered in post-it notes and scribbles in the margins. More expensive versions have ‘business thought leaders’ trying to reinterpret it for you and just end up muddying the water. Those 13 chapters are well worth visiting on a regular basis. Bill Bernbach’s Book is a source of inspiration; as is the better known Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy

How To Write A Thesis by Umberto Eco. I know what you’re thinking: ‘Ged have you lost your marbles, why would I care about writing a thesis?’ Eco’s book is a really good guide to collecting one’s thoughts and presenting facts gained through a comprehensive research process. As the old martial arts mantra goes: slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Whilst Professor Eco isn’t a marketing scholar he knows a lot about thinking and being cogent.

Ok, you’ve distilled all the knowledge from the rest of the books in this list, along with desk and possibly primary search.  You are ready to present your killer ideas to the client, or internal decision makers. Jon Steel has got you covered. Perfect Pitch: The Art of Selling Ideas and Winning New Business is a great refresher that helps shake you’re presentation game up.

What books would add? If you have additional recommendations, put them below in the comments section.

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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.


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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)