初 | hygiene | 기본

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Psychological Warfare of the Malayan Emergency – interesting read; I wonder what C.C. Too would have made of the Leave and Remain campaigns?

Reliance Jio has become the world leader in feature phones in just 10 months — Quartz – The strong growth in Jio, clubbed with the return of the Nokia brand, has helped the global feature phone market grow 38% year-on-year in January-March 2018, Counterpoint said. India contributed to nearly 43% of all feature phone sales during the first three months of 2018.

Highlights from CCS Insight’s Predictions – Manufacturers’ vision for smart TVs fails. Despite their efforts to introduce apps and smart features, makers of smart TVs have failed to convince customers, who still use them as “dumb” screens. They buy TVs mainly based on design and picture quality, viewing the smartness only as a by-product.

The Bill Gates Line – Stratechery by Ben Thompson – interesting essay on the nature of monopoly power, platforms and aggregators

Microsoft and Publicis unveil Marcel, an AI-based productivity platform for the ad giant | TechCrunch – interesting narrow expert apps rather than a general intelligence

Qualcomm launches Snapdragon 710 platform in mobile AI, neural networking push | ZDNet – further enhancing neural networks on smartphones

New Sony CEO to Detail Shift Away From Gadgets in Mid-Term Plan – Bloomberg – huge implication for innovation though

US-China tech wars threaten global sector disruption | FT – strikes at the heart of China’s ambitions and is likely to curb revenues as well as disrupt supply chains at foreign multinationals, many of which see the country as a key market. But it is also prompting a rethink at the corporate level in China, with tech companies looking to develop their own chips (pay wall)

Is Douyin the Right Social Video Platform for Luxury Brands? | Jing Daily – Douyin insider Fabian Bern shared that 85 percent of the app’s users are under 24 years old, over 70 percent are female, and the majority are from upper class families living in first tier cities

Social credit system must bankrupt discredited people: former official – Global Times – China’s social credit system had blocked more than 11.14 million flights and 4.25 million high-speed train trips by the end of April.

An improved social credit system was needed so that “discredited people become bankrupt,” Hou Yunchun, former deputy director of the development research center of the State Council

Opinion | What the Microsoft Antitrust Case Taught Us – The New York Times – interesting how what would have isolated sporadic criticism of the big four internet giants Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google is now morphing into criticism and calls for remedy on a regular basis. Behavioural change from a marketing perspective is usually driven by reach and repetition. It feels like the ground is being prepared for legislation or a court challenge a few years from now

A look back: The Bloomberg Keyboard | Bloomberg Professional Services – really interesting evolution of design

The surprising return of the repo man – The Washington Post – “So much of America is just a heartbeat away from a repossession — even good people, decent people who aren’t deadbeats,” said Patrick Altes, a veteran agent in Daytona Beach, Fla. “It seems like a different environment than it’s ever been.”

How Judea Pearl Became One of AI’s Sharpest Critics – The Atlantic – Three decades ago, a prime challenge in artificial-intelligence research was to program machines to associate a potential cause to a set of observable conditions. Pearl figured out how to do that using a scheme called Bayesian networks. Bayesian networks made it practical for machines to say that, given a patient who returned from Africa with a fever and body aches, the most likely explanation was malaria. In 2011 Pearl won the Turing Award, computer science’s highest honor, in large part for this work.

But as Pearl sees it, the field of AI got mired in probabilistic associations. These days, headlines tout the latest breakthroughs in machine learning and neural networks. We read about computers that can master ancient games and drive cars. Pearl is underwhelmed. As he sees it, the state of the art in artificial intelligence today is merely a souped-up version of what machines could already do a generation ago: find hidden regularities in a large set of data. “All the impressive achievements of deep learning amount to just curve fitting,” he said recently.

初 | hygiene | 기본

Things that made my day this week

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Things that made my day this week:

Via Matt’s Imperica newsletter, Experience Ramadan. A site that connects Muslim families and secular people to meet for meals breaking the fast of Ramadan.

Boots and Ogilvy have made this film on how artifiacts can spur memories in people suffering from dementia. I thought it was interesting because it implies the importance of artefacts, even as we live in a digital world.

Great vintage Mercedes-Benz film on the development of the Mercedes 190. There is something really beautiful about the process shown.

The trailer for Black Klansman

BBC World Service – The Assassination, 10 part documentary – on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, great piece of investigative journalism

传播媒体 | media | 미디어 商业 | business | 상업 市场营销 | marketing | 마케팅 思想 | ideas | 생각

The biggest Public Relations agencies; stuckness and market dynamics

Reading Time: 4 minutes


The Holmes Report came out with their top 250 (biggest) PR agencies around the world in terms of billings. I decided to delve into the numbers for financial years 2014 – 2017.

Macro picture

What the numbers suggested at a macro level were three things:

    • Overall billings growth was declining year on year
    • The amount of agencies that were appointed into the top 250 (and were dropped) declined year on year. There is less market disruption

Aggregate billings growth & top 250 list churn

    • The bottom 190 agencies (by size over successive years) accounted for less than half the billings of the top 25 for financial year 2017

Bottom 190 out top 250 PR agencies billings

Top 25 out of top 250 Pr agencies

This supports a hypothesis of slowing market growth and solidifying market dynamics at a macro level. Strategic acquisitions start to make less sense compared to improving efficiences and effectiveness. But if you were going to buy an agency MC Group in Germany looked to be the stand out choice in terms of changing the fortunes of a large agency billings

We’re also seeing a likely tyranny of large numbers kicking in for the biggest agencies. Mid-sized agencies can be more agile due to less layers of management and less complex environmetns to worry about. They may be multi-market; but they’re not truly global. Which makes strategy and planning much easier.

PR agencies are people businesses. At the core they sell manpower by the hour. Bigger agencies have more people, which means a greater management overhead, not unlike Fred Brooks’ The Mythical Man-Month essays on software engineering. There are more processes, which have built up over time and greater inertia to change. Then you get office and intra-office real politik. You can try and keep this down, but it is a function of scale; the battle against it becomes ever harder and you can only focus on its worst excesses. It tends not to surface when its impact only goes downwards in the management structure.

Agency-specific hypothesis

This next part was inspired by David Brain’s post on the performance of large agencies.

PR seems to be acquired in a more tactical manner than previously. This has been happening for a number of reasons.

A decline in Full Metal Jacket syndrome in comms planning. This nonsensical quote about Vietnamese people in Full Metal Jacket makes similar false assumptions. I’ve seen similar false assumptions in past global comms campaign planning that I have seen. Usually that meant creating something in the US and then expecting it to work on a fraction of the budget elsewhere. This means that there is less international work for agency networks. This has a negative impact on inter-office best practice transfer and building relationships.

The influence of Byron Sharp. For many consumer marketers, How Brands Grow – based on years of marketing science research is the bible. When you look at Sharp’s work there are a couple of clear points when you use public relations as a tactic.

Zero-Based Budgeting

Zero-based budgeting (ZBB) has changed the marketing planning game. It pits public relations campaign efficiency and effectiveness versus other disciplines in sharp focus. In addition, some organisations have mistaken ZBB as a one-way ratchet tightening marketing spend. ZBB isn’t about continual cost-cutting, but continual optimisation – something that seems to have been lost in translation.

PR agencies haven’t taken full advantage of the opportunity afforded by digital and social for a number of reasons:

  • There is a tension. Between the focus on financial efficiency and effectiveness that the macro numbers suggest versus the investment in tools and personnel required. Where are the studios, strategists, planners and media desks?
  • There has been an expertise drain across the industry as agencies deskill; paying new people into roles less than the person who previously filled it. This means that over time there is a trench in expertise between office leaders and the rest of the team, making it harder for the office to scale and a loss of institutional knowledge. This has led to a lack of diversity in thinking amongst many PRs; let alone gender, race and age diversity. From experience I’ve found that digital natives aren’t necessarily the best digital strategists
  • Clients haven’t embraced the change. Social in particular sits elsewhere amongst the marketing team. There is a similar division with paid media. The focus (particularly in Europe) on performance marketing over brand marketing hasn’t helped. Hubspot-style content marketing is a reductive process that isn’t the friend of PR agencies; despite their expertise in content
  • The window of opportunity closes as organic reach declines. Social media marketing effectiveness requires paid media budget. Agencies have jumped in too late with insufficient confidence. Traditional senior management agency PRs have been curiously hung up on this. Yet we see: corporate communications as adverts in the FT and WSJ and consumer PRs do paid advertorials and paid product placement

More information
David Brain’s post: Why Are The Biggest Global PR Agencies Stuck? Does It Matter?
Holmes Report