Wednesday 28 October 2020

Two tribes?


I've mentioned the work of More in Common before - in Germany, for example, where we see what are thought to be the traditional "fault lines" of society - like East: West - aren't, really.

I'm often mildly irritated by the attitude of the London-centred UK ad community and how out of touch many people in agencies seem to be with the rest of the country. A problem we don't have to such an extent in Germany as the ad industry isn't so concentrated into one city - and advertising was never on a self-important pedestal in the way it was in the UK. As an aside, I remember thinking that I'd be considered a more interesting and acceptable dinner party guest here if I worked selling insurance.

I don't like to sing a report's praises until I have read it, but I've had a look at the executive summary of Britain's Choice (launched on Monday 26th) and it has certainly whetted my appetite for the full Monty, all 291 pages of it.

The sound-bite that I'm sure will hit most people first is what we sort of knew all along - that there's a group "Progressive Activists" who are around 5 times more likely to post political stuff on Twitter and other social media than any of the other 6 groups. So, if you're using a research method that relies on what "people" are saying on social media - particularly if the topic is political - then it's likely the research will be biased.

But that aside, there is plenty in the report to give me hope. The seven groups are described as the fragments in a kaleidoscope - they are drawn together to form patterns around issues where there is common ground. 79%, for example, are proud of the advancements the UK has made in equality between men and women.

Both "hate speech" and "political correctness" are seen to be problems by the majority.

And most want to see a Britain that is hard-working, environmentally friendly, compassionate and honest.

Hooray for that.

Meanwhile, the two tribes can go on bashing each other's filter bubbles over on Twitter to their hearts's content. 

Tuesday 13 October 2020

Top of the Tortoises


There's a whole new area developing in assessing how good companies are performing on the triple bottom line. The latest new Index looking at how good companies actually are (in every sense of the word) is from Tortoise Media - The Tortoise Media Responsibility 100 Index

This index takes the FTSE 100 and rates these on indices relating to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, across the two broad areas People and Planet. There's a full detailed transparent methodology link included on the website for those interested in the nitty gritty and yes, of course, there is a degree of judgement in terms of how the indices are derived and weighted. 

Always worth bearing in mind.

Looking at the results, Top of the Tortoises this year are:

1. Unilever

2. Severn Trent

3. Diageo

4. AstraZeneca

5. BT Group

There are several things I like about this index - first of all, there's the "talk" and "walk" division - what the companies are committing to, and what they are actually doing. And I believe both are vital. Companies that simply donate a bucketload of cash to a trendy cause on the spur of the moment aren't in it for the long-haul, usually. 

It's good to see the top five from a complete mix of sectors - retail & consumer, engineering, pharma and services are all represented. And yes, it is the FTSE Top 100 which is generally about established companies, but it's encouraging to see all the Top 5 were established in the last century (with roots going much further back, in some cases) - these are certainly not "new kids on the block" who have social and environmental responsibility baked-in from the beginnings.

What I'd really like to see accompanying this is a "Hare Index" of growth to see if the third part of the triple bottom line really does go hand-in-hand with the other two to the finishing line.

Friday 2 October 2020

Back to Business

I recently read a document that was recommended via one of the world's biggest and most influential planning communities. It was called the Visibility Brief and has been produced by a well-established US agency. The brief is described as a "bias firewall" to be used in the creation of "more representative cultural goods". 

Using the search function, I looked for the following words in the brief:

Objective. Sales. Growth. Creativity. Effective.

None of these words have been used at all in the 19-page document.

This experience is similar to one related by Steve Harrison in his excellent book, can't sell won't sell

Steve wondered how he could help his clients in the coming recession, and what role in general the creative industries should take to keep the economy afloat during these "challenging times."  In June this year, he emailed the D&AD asking for a reading list of How To books or articles - useful stuff such as Advertising on a small budget, Writing copy that Sells, Creating a website that generates sales, How to plan media, How to write a brief and generally How to go about developing effective advertising in any medium.

The only reply he got was an "out of office" one.

However, the D&AD subsequently posted a couple of reading lists on their website: one of #staycation reading (rather heavy), replaced by 85 assorted sources to "educate yourself" about BLM.

These examples are symptomatic of the way that the ad industry has lost the plot and taken its eye off the ball, the main theme of can't sell won't sell

Reading this important book over the last couple of days, I realised that these ideas have also been at the forefront of my thinking over recent months.

The ad industry has become side-tracked and distracted away from its core business. One factor behind this is that agency people - particularly managers - are becoming increasingly less divergent in the way they think, and the values and opinions they hold. A consequence is that UK TV ads are markedly more annoying and less enjoyable than they were a couple of decades ago. They're also far less likely to be funny. And it goes without saying that this has consequences for effectiveness.

With a huge recession already kicking in, now is the worst possible time for this to be happening.

I strongly recommend this book - it's highly topical, funny, sharp, credible and readable.

My only little quibble (planner alert!) is that there isn't enough here about brand-building as driving long-term revenue, profit and general prosperity as well as short-term immediate sales effects produced by advertising.

It's given me a kick in the ivory tower for when I get too up in the clouds about purpose (I have my own views on purpose, here). I do hope that advertising doesn't become a completely dirty word, and that everyone in the industry can get on with what we do best - and get back to business.