Vol.01 No.01 12.07
Editorial, where we’ve been and what we’ve been doing there. This issue, PICNIC ’07, World Usability Day, Rory Sutherland on agency futures.
What we’ve been talking to people about. This issue, the media and entertainment sectors. New models and opportunities for publishing, TV, music, gaming and UGC.
All about design and creative work from LBi. This issue, ‘Remaindered Image:’ an agency photo shoot for a leading UK retailer of branded clothing, footwear and accessories. All models, LBi’s own.
What’s on LBi’s minds. This issue, outsourcing, Open Source, personas, the media business and how to complement Customer Relationship Management with ‘Product Relationship Management.’
Things that have interested us this quarter, and the ways they’ve made us feel.
UP FRONT: CONTENTS
WORLD USABILITY DAY
SAME AS IT EVER WAS
We’re not experiencing a ‘Digital Revolution’ and this isn’t a ‘Digital Age’ any more than the ‘50s were the ‘Atomic Age’ or the ‘60s the ‘Space Age’. We simply live, as we always have done, in fast-changing times. LBiQ is a response to this frantic pace of change and it’s one that responds from an attitude and point of view that we’ve shamelessly stolen from Ferris Bueller. 4
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” What better vehicle for relaxed moments of contemplation than that most leisurely of publishing formats – the quarterly journal? We’re online as well, of course, at LBiQ.net, but you should consider what’s in your hands right now as the luxury £40 box set that can sit proudly on your coffee table and complement the free download. Despite the digital business subject matter of this magazine, we’re clearly not pushing a ‘print is dead’ agenda. The printed word is still important to people and it’s always going to be. Likewise, as the playing counters of the news and entertainment media move further around the game board of change, we don’t subscribe to a view that would have you believe that any of the old media now lie dead – done in by digital, in the boardroom, with the broadband pipe. Not yet, anyway. The world is certainly changing and old models are definitely breaking, just not at the rate you might be led to believe. LBiQ is an opportunity for you to sit down and take a longer, more considered view on the rate of change and innovation in the fields of marketing, technology and creative. The last thing we’re out to be is bubble-blowing evangelists for an orgiastic green-lit digital future, where our lives will be lived as much in virtual worlds as they are in the real one. Call us and our old media print publication old-fashioned, but we’d rather look after our souls than our avatars. You would be forgiven for thinking that this is all vague and woolly nonsense, deployed to disguise the fact that this magazine is being brought to you by an agency called LBi. Guilty
as charged. Our soft-focus smokescreen of 1980s teen movie pseudo-philosophy and rhetoric (not to mention our title) are hardly going to hide the fact that we’re on the payroll. But we’re hoping this isn’t going to be a problem for you. The odds are that if you’re reading this in the first place, then you work within or alongside an agency yourself, so the skew towards agency viewpoints ought to be one that you can relate to. It’s also an interesting time for anyone who works with the (still) so-called new media. For a theoretically grown-up industry, there’s still a spirit of redefinition in the air. The boundaries between the ‘traditional’ agencies and the new breed of 1990s shops are becoming ever more blurred and both types of company are beginning to take on more and more of each other’s business and activities. This diffusion of understanding around how best to use digital media in business is, of course, A Good Thing. Anyone who’s ever had or witnessed a conversation that begins with the words “I’m an experience architect” only to end with a look of relieved recognition and the response, “Oh, so you design websites!” will be aware that, for much of its history, the ‘new media’ industry has had a tendency towards insular introspection. That’s one of the reasons behind this publication: to get out into the real world and invite external voices with different perspectives into the conversations we have. This time, those conversations – inevitably for a self-reflective first issue – focus on publishing and the wider entertainment and media sectors. And because we’re aiming for a readership working predominantly within the marketing world, the way we’ve approached this is to attempt to give practical insights and advice. So, we’re looking at
© LBiQ 2008. LBi Ltd is registered in England and Wales, the registered number and address are 03080409, 1 Naoroji Street, London, UK WC1X 0JD. Any unauthorised copying, disclosure or distribution of this material is strictly forbidden.
the most sensible ways to identify and act upon brand-marketing opportunities without getting carried away by the hype of the possible. Elsewhere, we turn to Rory Sutherland of OgilvyOne for an informed view on that blurring of ‘digital’ and ‘traditional’ agencies we’re encouraging. We also indulge in such (hopefully) endearing old media habits as reviewing the books we’ve been reading and writing about the developments we’ve found interesting over the last few months. Then there’s the explicit agency content. You should feel free to treat this with whatever attitude you approach advertorial content in any other magazine. As with all effective advertorial, though, it’s likely that if you enjoy anything else in these pages you’ll also find something stimulating in LBi’s own commentary on the state of both the world and the web. Bearing that in mind, everything you read shouldn’t – as it says on those corporate email footers – be taken to represent any official viewpoints of LBi UK, its management or its employees. This isn’t to say that the soap is already prepared and sitting beside the hand basin should anything we say offend anyone’s sensibilities. Rather, it’s an endorsement of the value the agency places on the role of different perspectives, viewpoints and arguments to drive discussion towards solutions. It’s conversation that provokes innovative ideas and enables their successful development. Limit conversation, lock down the elephant, and you’re hampering the potential for innovation. And you probably don’t want to be doing that. Enjoy, Dom and Duncan, LBiQ
UPFRONT EVENTS EDITORIAL TV
LBiQ @ PICNIC With the mission statement “uncork your brain”, and a programme spanning creative, technological, social and environmental issues, PICNIC ‘07, held in Amsterdam at the end of September, aimed to be more a festival than a conference... ...combine this with the role of LBi’s Lost Boys agency as a key sponsor, and it seemed a suitable setting for LBiQ to get a sense of the current state of creative concerns and innovation. If PICNIC had a problem, it was one of almost overwhelming creative diversity and – inevitably – buzzwords. Catch cult hero Cory Doctorow and MIT’s Neil Gershenfeld on the ‘Personal Fabrication Revolution’, or hear Saatchi & Saatchi on ‘Lovemarks’, ‘Sisomo’, and the role of interactivity in branding? Experience augmented reality advertising techniques, or take to the streets for the ‘Come Out and Play’ urban games festival? It all combined to create a daunting level of jargon and choice. So, splitting the task of reportage between the LBiQ team and the LBi Group Creative Directors, here are the top-line highlights from the hamper: Best Tech at the PICNIC Table For sheer ‘wow’ factor, it was all about the augmented reality demonstrations from Barcelona’s YDreams and London’s Brand Experience Lab. But first, a definition of ‘augmented reality’ is called for. While you might think the term came from a cyberpunk novel, it was more prosaically coined in 1990 by Boeing engineers developing a prototype training solution. Essentially, it’s all about overlaying CGI onto what the user sees and mapping this through motion capture. If you’ve ever seen Sony’s EyeToy for the PS2 then you’ve seen it in action.
But whereas the EyeToy is often a solitary experience (standing drunk in front of your telly fighting robot ninja monkeys), both YDreams and Brand Experience Lab are making this a shared and – based on the PICNIC reaction – communally euphoric experience. It’s better seen than described, so get yourself to YouTube and search the phrase ‘Human Joysticks’. What you’ll find is a crowd of cinema-goers during the opening weekend of Spiderman 3 in LA – witness them whooping as only North Americans can, while swaying side to side and controlling a big-screen version of arcade classic Breakout in a branded game developed by MSNBC. A variant on this was deployed at the London premiere of Ratatouille. Sponsored by Volvo, the audience steered their way around a track, with a plan to stack up the scores of different audiences across the country in a prize-winning competition. (Quick digression: Pixar has normally demonstrated a brilliant ‘does what it says on the tin’ naming strategy for their films – consider Cars and Toy Story. So why overreach themselves this time with a title that requires its own pronunciation guide on the posters? Wouldn’t Rat Chefs have been closer to the mark?) Then try a search on ‘YDreams’ + ‘Dove’. A São Paulo audience similarly whoops and swoons (though in an infinitely more sensual South American fashion) as they burst virtual bubbles in a stunning piece of work delivered through OgilvyOne. Not only does São Paulo ban toxic >>
“Almost overwhelming creative diversity and – of course – the inevitable buzzwords.”
© LBiQ 2008. LBi Ltd is registered in England and Wales, the registered number and address are 03080409, 1 Naoroji Street, London, UK WC1X 0JD. Any unauthorised copying, disclosure or distribution of this material is strictly forbidden.
“We’re all in favour of breaking things around here.”
advertising, it gets immersive brand experiences like this. Nice. But while LBiQ is all for moving engagement towards shared emotional experiences, we’re unsure just how varied the possibilities are for this premovie technology. Respect to Volvo for getting in there first in the UK, and opportunities obviously exist for networking different cinemas together and having audiences play each other; but the type of interaction and control is ultimately limited. That said, wait till you experience it – as you inevitably will – and feel the joy. And hell, it beats standard pre-film fodder and could easily become part of a familiar audience ritual. But, for brands, the challenge for the future will be in ensuring effective integration and messaging within the experience – something done much better by Dove than by MSNBC. The triumph of the amateur Imagine that you set out to build a skyscraper with no architect, no blueprints, no engineering specifications, no build plan, no surveyors, and no work schedule. All you have is the plot on which to build and whatever materials you can lay your hands on. You have some building skills, but you’re almost
entirely self-taught and the biggest thing you’ve ever built previously is a garden shed. Which fell down. Oh, and your day job is something entirely unconnected with construction, and you’re doing this in your spare time. So, imagine you simply turn up at the site one day with a heap of scrap metal and concrete and set about building. One more thing: you’re allowed to invite as many people as you like to help, but they are all as similarly skilled and experienced as you. How far do you think you’d get? This was the analogy used by author Cory Doctorow to provoke the PICNIC audience into thinking about how various computing superstructures, including the web, were created. They work in practice, but not in theory. The comparison is good for the content of the web as well as for its code. The writers of the web, who make the pages and the links between them, unwittingly collaborate to create structure and associated value, on behalf of others – for example, Google. Doctorow’s point is that if you give people collaborative tools, they will collaborate to build useful things with them. Had Tim Berners-Lee decided to lock down HTML rather than releasing it, the World Wide Web would never have come to
exist in the way that we know it. Open access to collaborative resources is therefore A Good Thing. Nevertheless, ‘locking down’ software is the norm – a norm which makes the twin assumptions that the software is as good as it can be in its current version and that its intended users are both capable of ‘breaking’ it and likely to attempt this. Fair enough? Possibly. The principle of intellectual property ownership is basic to the capitalist system, and stabilising and protecting the product or service being provided from unintended experimentation safeguards reliability – an important issue for the end-user. But what if the item or service isn’t as good as it can be? And what if ‘breaking’ it enables ‘better’ usage? Or, to put it another way, what if greater value can be extracted from the product or service than the providers have intended, or even realised? ‘Breaking things’ and ‘being open’ were strong themes at PICNIC, and it’s an approach we’re all in favour of – we talk open source on pages 78-79. In a world where a self-populating social utility tool is valued at $15 billion, breaking, entering and opening things up is clearly the most exciting and profitable way to go.
LBIQ’S TOP 3 PICNIC IN AMSTERDAM MOMENTS
Arriving late and seemingly disoriented for his 15-minute ‘PICNIC Green moment’, actor – and enthusiast for all things green – Woody Harrelson talks about endangered redwoods. Or rather, ‘ancient redwoods’. Woody seems unable to decouple the trees from the adjective, and this lends an unintentional comedic element – one sustained by his stand-out line: “If only those ancient creatures could talk…” Quite.
Uber-hacker Pablos Holman of Komposite.com demonstrates the weakness of everyday encryption techniques by performing some live exploits. Yes, it’s the expected thing in these sessions, but the modern day phone-phreakery of hacking someone’s voicemail and changing the message is always good value. Especially if it’s Cory Doctorow’s answer-phone message and Cory is sitting in the front row at the time. Great stuff.
© LBiQ 2008. LBi Ltd is registered in England and Wales, the registered number and address are 03080409, 1 Naoroji Street, London, UK WC1X 0JD. Any unauthorised copying, disclosure or distribution of this material is strictly forbidden.
Cult of the Amateur author Andrew Keen (reviewed on page 92) takes an almost aggressive and confrontational stance against David Weinberger’s evangelical view of the semantic web (see page 91). Possibly Keen – who argues that blogs deliver damagingly superficial observations of the world – is driven to this aggression by the sight of his audience blogging his words in real time. Or possibly he’s just aware that a hardline stance helps shift units. Either way, it’s not every day you hear the terms ‘philosopher’ and ‘humanist’ hurled as insults…
UPFRONT EVENTS EDITORIAL TV
LBi has both strong connections with the Usability Professionals Association and a strong healthcare practice and it seemed a natural fit for the company to host an all day event with a packed programme of panels and case study presentations to share both healthcare specific and general state of the industry insights.
World Usability Day @ LBi
Paper records can crash too
The Map of Medicine goes mobile
In its 3rd year, World Usability Day was marked with a worldwide series of events on November 8th all focusing on the healthcare sector. The intersection of usability and healthcare is in areas that affect all of us and which can literally make the difference between life and death, be it in the way that hospitals function, the manner in which information is shared between practitioners or the way that treatment is delivered on a day to day basis. 10
Usability and the NHS National Programme for IT As the lead experience architect at NHS Connecting for Health, the government agency responsible for the NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT), LBi alumnus Kit Lewis set the scene with a presentation describing the key problems the programme is there to address and the successes it has had so far. The NHS spends very little on IT – a third, per employee, of that spent by the rest of government and eight times less than the financial services industry – so it’s not surprising that its methods for handling information are so old-fashioned. In healthcare, poor record keeping kills people: records can be lost, important information can be recorded wrongly, and patterns can be hard to spot. Even being sure that the patient in front of you is the right patient can be difficult. And, much as the failures of computer systems are highly publicised, paper records can also ‘crash’. The core of NPfIT is the shared electronic patient record, allowing everyone to see all the information about a patient wherever they are. This is a substantial problem from an integration perspective, with many systems to integrate. PACS (picture archiving and storage), the system for holding the results of X-ray, CT, MRI and ultrasound investigations, is one of the first parts of the programme to have completed its national roll-out. It is also a major usability challenge, not least because so much of healthcare involves walking around. Handwriting and voice recognition are key to capturing complex clinical information. User interface standards play a big part, as does standardising the representation of clinical knowledge into a form that’s easy to assimilate at the point of care.
Having information widely available through using IT starts to change culture. Collecting clinical data in a structured, consistent way means that it can be reported on – for example, the Healthcare Commission’s Heart Surgery web site showing statistically-normalised results to patients, helping them to make informed choices about the risks of their treatment. The new NHS Choices web site takes this further by encouraging people to share their experiences about their local facilities. This, from the inside, could be seen as turkeys voting for Christmas, so one shouldn’t underestimate the bravery and cultural shifts involved in making this happen. Public attitudes to healthcare Nik Horn, a user researcher at LBi, presented the results of a research study into public attitudes to healthcare carried out to inform the design of the NHS Choices web site. The study involved participants from across the country who were visited at home, then asked to keep diaries, then visited again at the end of the to go through the diaries. The study disproved two common assumptions, namely that people don’t have access to the information they need to make healthy choices about their lives, and that they don’t use NHS services because they don’t care enough about their health. Simply providing facts, it turns out, is not enough. The study uncovered attitudes including problems with authority (“I don’t want to know”), not seeing a personal relationship to the information, not caring about the outcome of inaction and not believing that change is possible. Simply providing health services is not enough. Participants in the study feared that they would look stupid (“I don’t know how to talk about the problem”), they would have no control over what happens to them, that the NHS did not have their best interests at heart, and that treatment would involve new pain that they wanted to avoid.
a substantial presence overseas. The mobile version of the product is potentially useful within the NHS (NPfIT has commissioned a portable machine suitable for healthcare environments) and, in particular, in developing markets. It was inspired by some research in Kenya, where generalist clinicians would often have to travel for up to a day to visit patients. Susan showed how the design evolved as a result of the pilot study carried in the UK and Kenya. Challenges moving forwards The panels at the conference were lively and not short of opinion. The panel on communities was the most militant, rounding on GPs’ bedside manners and the asymmetry of the doctor-patient relationship, insisting that exclusion based on behaviours and current health is wrong, and asserting that patient-centred design might be the wrong approach: design should intervene most in challenging the bureaucracy of the NHS. The discussion on R&D processes in healthcare highlighted the barrier of knowledge in healthcare. Design professionals are intimidated by the amount of knowledge required, and projects struggle to get new people up to speed and doing valuable work in a short space of time. In the evening, the panels turned to wider themes within the industry – in particular the changes needed to adapt to an ever-maturing market. Not only are usability and interaction design moving out of the agency world to become valuable inhouse skills for customer focused organisations, there’s also a growing awareness of the variety of roles and skills that fall under the ‘user experience’ banner. As to the titles given to these roles and their understanding and acceptance in the wider business world, that’s an issue requiring equally lively debate of its own.
A Mobile Map of Medicine Susan Webber, an experience architect at LBi, gave a demonstration of the mobile version of the Map of Medicine, a web-based visual representation of evidence-based patient care journeys covering 28 medical specialties and 387 pathways. LBi has been working with Medic-to-Medic on the Map for four years, taking it from a concept to being the officially sanctioned mechanism for distributing clinical information in the UK with
SAME AS IT EVER WAS When bastard terms like ‘tradigital’ are bandied around to describe the convergence of old and new types of agency, it’s clearly time to take a line on the future. Rory Sutherland, Vice-Chairman of the Ogilvy Group UK gives LBiQ his take. Our media environment is changing and an ever-increasing proportion of spend is moving online. Still, there’s surely no need for any agency – traditional or otherwise – to be in a state of flux about this. Media environments are always prone to change, whether the media in question is ‘old’ or ‘new’. Surely the knack of being a half-decent agency is gaining enough understanding of the underlying principles of brands, communication and persuasion to apply these to best effect, regardless of whatever medium may happen along? Certainly, there are a good number of agencies that seem to manage this well, at least some of the time. ‘Digital’ agencies now (quite rightly) work successfully on conventional briefs and many of the notionally conventional shops, the Crispins, Wiedens and – dare I say it – Ogilvys of the world, produce some of the best digital work out there. Personally, I’m glad that this is a two-way street, and I’m particularly glad that what’s helping to erode these distinctions between old and new is a common talent pool that’s flowing in both directions. (Not that pools flow, but you can see what I mean…). Besides, before we give houseroom to the idea of distinctions between traditional and digital agencies, it’s worth reminding ourselves that the media environment we inhabit now, strange as it may be, would seem less strange – in many ways – to talent from the earliest days of advertising than it would to talent from the more recent past. If you were to take the great ad men of the golden age – Bill Bernbach, Leo Burnett, David Ogilvy or (best of all) Howard Luck Gossage – and transport them from the mid-1960s to the year 2007, then I don’t think they’d find our current media environment all that difficult to grasp. Google, for example, would be easily understood as a latter-day equivalent to classified advertising, and –
well versed in the long-copy press advertising of the time – they would already know that good communication requires not just the attraction of attention, but its maintenance. Given a few weeks to get their heads around the technology and jargon, I think that they would deliver remarkable work. I hope that the best digital practitioners could do the same if the situation were reversed. Although many might be unwilling to enter a world without Photoshop, Flash or Google, I’m sure that the very best could flourish equally well in 1958. But, if a few digital people might be reluctant to step back, there is another group of people who would be equally reluctant to step forward. I’m not talking about the contemporaries of Bernbach and Gossage – who themselves grew up in a multimedia age – but those schooled in the intervening TV age: that brief period when the TV commercial was the only thing that mattered. These were the people who truly occupied a peculiar and anomalous media world – not the Ogilvys or the Burnetts of yesteryear, nor the information architects or Flash developers of today. They’re also the people who now find themselves in a position akin to that of the (currently re-skilling) end-of-terrace graffiti artists of Northern Ireland: they’ve spent so much of their careers painting balaclavas that they’re now absolutely useless when it comes to doing faces. Nevertheless, for all that generation’s narrowness of focus, one thing is indisputable: TV attracted one hell of a lot of talent. Advertising, for a glorious decade or so, seemed the natural home for a raft of misfit geniuses. The talent crises emerged only when one of their number left to make a Hollywood feature or to write the likes of Midnight’s Children. It seems to me that we’ll have more luck in matching the talent pool of this era if we don’t confuse young tyros with needless distinctions between traditional and digital agencies. The more important distinction remains the old one: that between good agencies and crappy ones.
FOCUS EVERYTHING IS BREAKING. NEWS AND ENTERTAINMENT MEDIA ARE OUT OF THEIR BOXES. CONTENT OWNERS NEED NEW MODELS, AND BRANDS HAVE TO UNLEARN THEIR OLD WAYS.
14: publishing 21: Music 29: TV 35: Games 41: UGC
“YOU MUST BE CRAZY” David Hepworth, publisher, journalist and the man who launched, among others, Heat magazine, Q, Empire and our favourite monthly culture bible Word, talks about music, the magazine industry and why launching LBiQ is quite possibly insane…
If you’d gone to the City for funding to launch this magazine, you would have returned with an empty bowl. The City will tell you magazines have had their day. Their claim to specialism has been usurped by digital TV channels and their anorak appeal trumped by the limitless inventory of the internet. Of course, those in the City aren’t alone in giving magazines the thumbs-down. I was speaking recently to a retired magazine mogul, someone who launched some of the most influential titles of the 70s and 80s. Would he buy any of the titles that are currently up for sale? “I wouldn’t buy a magazine today,” he said. “Not even in a newsagent.” So we’re under no illusions, then. LBiQ has at least sidestepped the key challenge for the 21stcentury consumer magazine. You don’t have to herd potential readers into an unappealing newsagent, use the frantic semaphore of your cover to persuade them that your title offers something new and relevant and then – hardest of all – get them to actually put their hand in their pocket and indulge in the charming practice of paying for an item of media. You, dear reader, are reading this magazine because its publishers know you won’t pay for it.
Not yet anyway. Nonetheless, if the editor has done his job, odds are that you’ll enjoy the experience of reading this magazine just as much as you would in the days before the world went digital. The point is that people still love magazines, once they’re in their hands. Because hands are important. Right now, you’re at the centre of the unsurpassable relationship between hand and eye that is the traditional reading experience. There is not currently – nor, I’d venture to suggest, will there ever be – an interface between person and medium which facilitates the navigation of content in a way that gives the same satisfaction to both reader and advertiser as the traditional magazine format does. Even in the world of the web, the virtues of a lean-forward, seductive medium like the magazine are clearly apparent. But that won’t put the consumer magazine industry out of its current panic as everyone drives their tanks across what were formerly each other’s pristine lawns. The teenage market has been subsumed into the celebrity market, as has the traditional homemaker market. The young men who used to buy FHM and Loaded now find their titillation and trivia at the click of a mouse. The
publishers of automotive titles still find their readers demanding pages of buying information, even though the shopping itself is done online. As media’s tectonic plates shift, however, the magazine business realigns itself accordingly. Titles like Heat and Closer, perfectly adapted to the lifestyles of their readers, continue to prosper, riding the same forces that have seen all women between 14 and 45 deciding they would actually prefer to be 22. Out in the shires, fortunes are being made by publishers offering stardom to the leading lights of the county set and tight targeting for advertisers. Magazines about superyachts and cigars, which play a vital role in both defining and elevating their markets, defy economic downturn – much as their super-rich readers do. So we go on. Magazines aren’t going back to the way they were, but nor is anything else. The old equation in which it’s all a matter of content plus conduit no longer applies in the magazine business. You used to develop magazine ideas by saying ‘over here are a lot of people who wish to know about subject A’, but no longer. Now it’s more about the self-image of the readers and their desire
for particular experiences. Magazines in the future will be less about the reading and more about the reading experience. This development of experiences that are ever more closely wrapped around the desires of niche consumers is needed across all media. Why? Because we have more than enough stuff already. What we need now is to be able to clear a space in which to enjoy that stuff, to be able to take our hands off the mouse for long enough to allow our senses to engage, to overcome the terrible restlessness with which the digital revolution has left us. For example, take music, an area I’m rumoured to know a little about. I’m told that the big hit of this summer was Foundations by Kate Nash, but I’m not actually aware of ever having heard it. No incident has served to pick it out of the teeming background noise of our lives, to place it in the foreground and say ‘listen to this’. This may seem like professional slackitude, but frankly I no longer give a damn – and nor should you. Anybody who tells you that they manage to keep tabs on everything worthwhile in this day and age is either lying or labouring under a faulty definition of ‘worthwhile’.
There was a time, possibly even a particular day, during the 90s when the idea that you could keep track of everything going on in popular music became no longer tenable; when the ‘megastore’ experience turned from stimulating plenty to enervating glut; when we decided that we had enough radio stations, thank you; when the need for the traditional things purveyed by traditional media – information and entertainment – changed utterly. The key currency now, in all media, is attention. This is not something you can demand. It has to be earned. That applies to music and to the media that disseminate it. I’d say that – for the moment – the age of mass is over. It’s pull rather than push, pick ‘n’ mix rather than the branded tube, Dave rather than ITV1, single-tracks iTunes store rather than dutifully queuing in the megastore. This is great news for people, but for companies and media owners who have been used to dividing up their clientele into tidy, economically viable units, it looks like a world of pain. A whole new alignment is called for.
“Why the hell anyone should launch a magazine in this day and age is beyond me, and I’ve launched lots.”
one world, one brand The Financial Times is a successful anomaly in the publishing market, growing in print circulation, online reach and advertising revenues, all within an environment of extreme change. Ien Cheng, Managing Editor of FT.com, checks in to talk to LBiQ about brands, buzzwords and the FT.com business model. On FT.com’s customer-driven model “The way we’ve gone about the new FT.com model is to look at segmenting users not by the types of content they access, but by the manner in which they use it. Usage is easily the best proxy of value among users, so instead of second guessing which kind of content may or may not be valuable to them, we’re letting users themselves determine this through what they access. “So now we have three real cohorts of users: there’s that whole wide world of internet users out there who we want to come in and get to know the very best of our content, including the analysis and columnists, not just the news; there are those who are going to want to use our content heavily, and they’ll be invited to subscribe for unlimited access; and then in the middle there’s the option to register for more access and usage for users situated somewhere between the two. “We’re confident that this flexible accessbased model is going to drive faster overall growth in our user base as well as giving us sustained subscription growth, and we’re confident because it’s a model we’ve researched extensively with both existing and potential new customers. We’ve been reassured that these customers understand the model, that they think it’s fair and attractive and that they feel it’s being presented and packaged in the right way. “We also extended this research through a live beta model we ran in Italy and Spain before launching to the rest of the world. This helped
refine some of the technical issues around delivery and helped us get a feel for the new model in practice, so it’s our customers who gave us the confidence that we could make this work.” On the relationship between print and online “At FT.com we’re looking at incredible advertising growth. We’re seeing something around 40% to 50% year-on-year growth, and we want to keep going at this higher-than-average rate to increase both our inventory and our reach. “At the same time, we have a healthy and growing newspaper. Circulation and revenues are up for the print product too. In the UK, the paper’s circulation went up even with a rise in cover price, and advertising’s still growing as well. I don’t think there are many – if any – newspaper publishers in the world who can demonstrate results like this. “Looking at this growth, you have to ask, ‘how is this happening?’ A great deal of the answer lies in the unique positioning of the Financial Times brand. The key thing about our brand is that we’re able to make total sense of a very complicated and noisy world. For an audience of decision makers who don’t have much time and who need an executive briefing on the world of business, our content and approach are vital. “There’s a world of increasing information chaos out there with a proliferation of – often free – information on the web. The need for a filtering function to make sense of the world from all of
this is ever more vital, and it’s in response to this that the FT brand is one of the few that’s growing. This filtering role is even more important when you’re talking about global business – which is of course what we’re all about – and so, in a way, it’s not a surprise that we’re seeing the paper product and not just FT.com growing healthily. This growth, around 70% year on year for online with a more mature and moderate pace for the paper, highlights the changing ways in which this kind of filtered information is being consumed. “Our new model for FT.com – reserving unlimited access to subscribers while still allowing access to the rest of the world – reflects this and lets us have it both ways. It lets us grow online while still having a coherent premium pricing strategy between the web and paper versions, and this allows us to do things such as bundle sales. “You really need to look at FT.com within the overall context of the FT business as a whole; it’s not just about online and print. There’s also a third key element in our sales of corporate content to major institutions, so we needed to develop a pricing model that works for FT.com’s business but which is also coherent and consistent with the newspaper and content sales businesses. I’m confident that this is what we’ve done.” On the pace of change “Is pace of change an issue? Of course. That’s the point that many of the entrepreneurs here in Silicon Valley are making, and everyone’s >>
<< optimistic. At the FT we need to continue to focus on what our brand is all about and how we’re uniquely positioned for winning over the long term. It’s all about differentiation, and that means having a clear idea of what you’re trying to achieve and then maintaining your concentration on that. “Concentration and focus are essential. New opportunities are always going to arise, often with buzzwords attached to them, and there’s always a temptation to say ‘let’s try this, let’s try that’, but sometimes you have to say no and concentrate on the core value of what you’re doing: making sure that core value is defensible and that you can deliver it better than anyone else. “For the FT, that core value is providing an executive briefing on the world of global business – a broader-based business view of the world. If we do that better than anyone else then we’re going to
win, and that’s what we intend to do. Managing the pace of change is all about maintaining focus and avoiding all the latest things that you could do but which you may not be better at doing than anyone else. “That said, even with a core focus on brand value, there are other internal factors you need to consider in a fast-changing marketplace. For example, organisational and business process change are equally essential to changing your products on the outside. “At FT.com, then, we have three priorities. There’s getting our new frequency-based access model right, and we’re feeling very bullish about that right now. Then there’s ensuring that the product delivers on our core values, and even though we’ve done a lot in the last year we need to continue to innovate and have bigger plans
still for next year. Third, and equally important, is improving our own organisation. “This third point may be less sexy and less visible to the outside world, but it’s essential because otherwise we won’t be able to continue to move swiftly or decisively enough to keep up with the changing global landscape. Communicating this change is important – we want a strong, single FT brand across all channels, and all of our activities in terms of product and marketing for FT.com are going to follow that increasingly going forward. We’re all about a single brand, and everything we do should build towards that single brand.”
READING WORD TO THE KIDS Penguin goes all-out for the 13-18 teen readers market with the well-named Spinebreakers. It’s essentially an old school publisher site dressed up in the Web 2.0 wardrobe of video, podcasts and UGC. That said, the presentation suggests it’s aimed at those bookish teens who disdain
the “bedroom wall” look of the typical MySpace page. Another telling insight into the mindset of these young contributors? The hand drawn poster of Boris Johnson submitted for a “My Hero” competition.
NO ONE BELONGS HERE MORE THAN HER Much praise from the design community for the eponymous dotcom site accompanying Miranda July’s No one belongs here more than you. The homemade, drawn-on-kitchen surfaces photo-narrative that makes up the site contrasts with everything else we’ve seen this year, aspiring to Web.01 just as everyone sprints in the opposite direction. What we like more, though, is that it’s so clearly
the author’s voice. Like the bands who run their own sites rather than hiding behind the slick flash of record label properties, July is giving a sense of herself rather than of her publisher’s aspirations. Our only issue? The author’s witty on-site persona betrays no hint of the often dark psychosexuality of the stories themselves.
ONE EYE ON THE PAST WHAT DOES WEB 2.0 MEAN TO FT.COM? “A lot of people right now think that Web 2.0 is just about social networking, but entrepreneurs are talking about it in terms simply of everything that’s happening right now, not any one type of application. How I think around Web 2.0 is to still concentrate on the basics – the acceleration in terms of online advertising spend and general usage. You don’t want to get caught up in the buzzwords as your primary thing and not get the basics right. “We see particular opportunities for building communities around industry segments. The FT overall is a broad-based global business brand. We like to say that we’re sophisticated but not specialised, but when you
go beyond that primary purpose it would be good to cover industry sectors more fully online than the constraints of print allow us to. So in planning the new site there’s been this premise – to facilitate and build on interactive relationships with users in those sectors. “In the case of FT.com, our users in industry sectors have a lot of expertise. They’re often sources for our reporters and they can share that expertise with our editors online in a new way. It’s important though that – whatever we do – we stay true to our core brand values and promise, which is that the FT is going to make sense of the world. Everything we do is always going to be moderated and edited by our editors otherwise we risk moving away from that.”
We’re unashamed fans of Monocle magazine, aimed by Tyler ‘Wallpaper*’ Brûlé at a jet-setting ‘borderless global elite’. That’s not us, but the mag is a well-designed, properly chunky and informative monthly read. Then there’s the website – as the likes of the New York Times start to do away with paid access to online content, Monocle.com
bucks this trend entirely to put a content and video archive behind a print subscription barrier. Different revenue models and a different audience perhaps, but there’s still something to be said for the concept of the aspirational, elitist, paid premium content experience.
iREAD? There’ve been many attempts to crack the perfect, portable reader for digital books, but now it looks like there may be a winner, and it’s very probably not Amazon’s ‘Kindle’. The 160ppi screen of Apple’s iPod Touch, great for video and awesome for rendering web pages, is also killer for delivering print content on the go. Harper Collins has already made a selection of its back catalogue available
(first ten pages for free, then you’re paying) and is bullish around opportunities for 80s favourites the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books. This may open up Europe and America to the trend of novels written explicitly for the phone or device, already an $80 million+ market in Japan. Half of Japan’s top ten print bestsellers this year have started out as novels for mobile device download.
REALITY CHECK PUBLISHING Rupert Murdoch’s 2005 view of a “long, slow decline” for newspapers is proving correct. The pace of cannibalisation of print by digital is hardly dramatic.
Each of the last few years has seen an average of 500 new magazines launched in the UK. Not all survive, but many endure for a lifespan of years. Newspapers continue to manage profitability through rises in cover price to address decreases in circulation, 7 out of 50 of the best-selling books of all time have been published in the internet age and – over 2006 – book sales in the UK rose by 3%. Only among the youngest of readers with the lowest disposable incomes is there a notable decline, with sales of magazines aimed at teenagers slipping a massive 60.9% between 2001 and 2006. Complementary to our lifestyles The trains and buses of the UK are littered each morning with discarded free newspapers, and commuters still read books. With 10 free daily papers available across the country, no one’s going to be mugged for their copy of Metro, but sit there of a morning with a digital reader and you’ll attract attention. Likewise, in the private rituals of the home, the luxury associated with books and magazines is unlikely ever to be delivered through the laptop or portable device.
Complementary to digital Online versions of newspapers and magazines find themselves new slots in consumers’ lives, accessed in the main during office hours. Simultaneously, the web is positively enhancing the traditional value chain of the book-publishing industry – the best of UGC sees itself commissioned, albeit into so-so books and TV, and browsing before buying is now possible through Amazon’s ‘Search Inside this Book’ feature or the 1 million books digitised by Google as of March this year. The web also helps highlight and unite new audience niches at which to profitably target new real-world magazines. Look to exploit tighter relationships The tighter targeting of magazine and other specialist content is likely to see more publishers following models such as that of the FT, ensuring that access to specialist content is free to all but heavy users, with online used to drive print subscription just as much as the other way around. For newspapers and magazines, the paper should always be the core brand on which other products are built. Expect to see further close ties between digital and print – particularly around the local/regional news market, where ‘hyperlocal’ targeting through digital is set to be the next big thing.
Time spent reading offline publications Print will continue to co-exist alongside digital channels, particularly in the UK, where habits are ingrained in both public and private ritual. In the UK, 65% of all adults read a national paper and 83.9% read a regional. The regional press remains the largest print advertising medium in the UK, with a 17% share of all spend over 2006. Source, Mintel.
Sources: WH Smith, The Newspaper Society, Mintel, Publishers Association
MUSIC No sector of entertainment has been transformed by digital technologies as much as the music business. At a time when a major global band can distribute an album effectively for free and record companies are rushing to re-badge themselves as â€˜entertainmentâ€™ companies, LBiQ looks at new industry models and the opportunities they may create for brands looking for closer relationships with their audiences.
The recorded music industry has traded on a core business model almost unchanged for nearly 100 years. Unsurprisingly, the past seven years have seen a frantic search for new futures in the face of looming crisis but, fortunately, it seems that there are a variety of options open to the major record companies. Here are five of them plus verdicts on their chances of forcing the radical restructuring of a sector long in need of a severe shake-up. Fans doing it for the band
Making it in the music business Eamonn Forde, editor of music strategy title Five Eight, looks at models for an industry on which everyone, from the BPI to teenage Limewire freaks, seems to have an opinion.
Bands doing it for themselves Only around 10% of signed acts turn a profit, so if you’re a label, you want to hang on to the cash cows into which you’ve sunk your money. The arrival of digital has wrested distribution out of the labels’ hands, however, and established acts out of contract now have the infrastructure to go it alone. The amazing thing is that so few have. Out of contract with EMI, Radiohead undertook a label-negating multiple play for their seventh album In Rainbows: let fans choose the price for the download, charge £40 for a deluxe boxed set, and continued talks with labels with the aim of giving the album a traditional release. Will this become the norm? Absolutely not. Few acts out of contract find themselves in a position like Radiohead’s, with a large and loyal fan base and ongoing online engagement with them. Verdict: A new model, yes, but one that only the most foolish, reckless and/or arrogant of bands will attempt to replicate. One for Razorlight, perhaps.
Marillion was the first dropped act to prove “fanfunding” (where fans pre-invest in an album’s recording, manufacturing and distribution costs) a viable option. While this can clearly work for signed acts whose sales are not what they were, there are also attempts to use this model to build bands from the ground up. Sites like SellaBand and Slice The Pie facilitate fundraising for unsigned acts with fans investing in return for a cut of the earnings. These grassroots co-investment initiatives are certainly interesting, but unlikely to force change in the way labels continue their business. Most bands turning to funding in this fashion would never pass through the A&R gate of a label. As such they have a slim chance of success and are missing out on the marketing spend a label can offer. Critically, unlike those once-famous acts out of contract, they don’t have a following built on years of touring and on the bedrock of label marketing-spend. Verdict: File under ‘interesting but fraught with immense risk’ (much like listening to Marillion). >>
Green Day, prepared to sing for Duff in The Simpsons Movie
AND THE BRANDS PLAYED ON When The Simpsons Movie opens with Green Day performing at the Duff Beer Concert Series, it’s safe to say that music sponsorship has reached its mature period. Bands doing it for the pan (revenue split)
When the artist known again as Prince gave away his Planet Earth CD with the Mail on Sunday in July, the paper added 600,000 copies to its average circulation and Prince received a rumoured £500,000 payout. Considering his previous album only sold 70,000 in the UK, this most controversial of new models was also clearly a deft move. Other heritage acts have followed Prince’s lead, with Kinks legend Ray Davies distributing his Working Man’s Café album with the Sunday Times in October. Coffee shop mega-brand Starbucks is also stepping in to offer a new distribution platform to acts of a certain vintage under its Hear Music brand. Following the runaway success of Ray Charles’ Genius Loves Company (sales of over 5.5million globally), the company struck heritage gold by signing Paul McCartney’s Memory Almost Full album this June, with Joni Mitchell’s Shine following in September. In all cases, this has proven lucrative for both the artists and Starbucks.
In 2002, Robbie Williams renegotiated his recording contract with EMI to give the label a share of his total earnings (publishing, live, merchandise, sponsorship, etc. – all traditionally areas it had no stake in). Originally greeted as either a time bomb or a folly born of an artist’s vanity and a label’s desperation to hold onto a major name, it’s ended up as a blueprint for the future. Some entertainment lawyers regard this as a land grab for rights, but it is being seen by labels (or rather ‘entertainment companies’ as they’re coming to style themselves) as the only way to survive after years of decline. There is now a similar move by the live industry. Rather than renegotiate with Warner Music (à la Robbie/EMI) or take the DIY route (à la Radiohead), Madonna has signed a ten-year deal estimated at $120million with events giant Live Nation. Under the Artists Nation banner, the 360° revenue-share deal will see Live Nation distribute three studio albums, promote concert tours, sell merchandise and license Madonna’s name.
Verdict: Fascinating in theory but severely lacking in successful practice.
Verdict: Great if you’ve been around long enough to sell out with confidence. Starbucks is now attempting to build a new act (Hilary McRae) from the ground up, but the jury’s still out on whether or not this can work.
Verdict: As boundaries blur between industry sectors, a hybrid model seems a strong route forwards. Record sales are, ironically, looking increasingly peripheral to how what we once called ‘record companies’ make their money.
Bands doing it with The Man
<< Bands doing it for the Fans The latest play to lure file sharers into downloading is the ad-supported model. The two biggest players in this space are SpiralFrog (with a licensing deal with Universal since the end of 2006) and We7. Both allow fans to access music in exchange for sitting through ad content first, and revenues are split between the services and the copyright holders. A great idea on paper, but in reality it’s proving difficult to implement and monetise. SpiralFrog, for example, needed to raise $18million in ad money to be viable but as of mid-September had only managed $3,000. There is a delicate balance to achieve between the volume of advertising required and the nature of a consumer experience that doesn’t prove unpalatable to music fans. No one’s found it yet.
Heineken, Tuborg, Grolsch, Foster’s, Budweiser and Stella Artois were just some of the real beer brands trying to get music fans’ attention over this year’s European festival season. But did anyone in the audience remember which beer ‘powered’ their favourite band? The ‘mobile operator invites customers to see supposedly hip band in obscure location’ model raises similar questions. When the same ‘up-and-coming’ band does a show for T-Mobile one month and one for Vodafone the next, what exactly has each brand gained? Endorsement-based partnerships, despite the vast investment they typically involve, often have a built-in limitation in the form of the short lifecycles of the products they promote. It’s hard to see how either artist or brand benefited from the hook-ups between U2 and Apple that spawned the red-wheeled iPod or between P!nk and her, er, pink PSP. Cut-through in music is still achievable. Heineken’s global portfolio – from the credible Festival Internacional de Benicàssim in Spain, to Amsterdam’s Music Hall, where punters buy their Heineken with Heineken currency that commemorates the stars who have played there – succeeds through sheer scale, but as the live music
business snowballs, so does the clutter. Standing out is getting harder to do. Yet brands overlook another boom area that presents new opportunities for deep, differentiated, long-term associations: free digital music. Music is out of step with music fans, who can get any music they like for free from file-sharing networks, from taste-maker blogs like Stereogum, and from their friends via email, IM or social networks. If they ever buy music, it’s on CD, so they can rip the songs and share them. The response of the music industry has typically been to send in the lawyers, while offering the same content at unappetising – and often plain confusing – price points, with a host of DRM restrictions. A quid or more for a track I can listen to on my phone but not my iPod? No thanks. No brand has yet taken advantage of this discrepancy between supply and demand. Prince’s PR coup – giving away his new album – trumped O2’s massive sponsorship of London’s Millennium Dome. Coca-Cola and McDonald’s leapt on board the first download bandwagon in 2004, but what does giving away a million free downloads – with no alignment with any particular artists, or any targeting at all – say about a brand? ‘Free’ and ‘digital’ used to be dirty words for the risk-averse music industry, but times are changing.
With CD sales looking shaky, labels are viewing brands as key sources of future revenue and getting increasingly open-minded about the deals they will do. Most majors and indies have entered agreements with start-ups like Qtrax and Slacker. com that allow them to offer free music in return for a share of advertising revenue. Universal Music Group reportedly made a dollar on every Zune player that Microsoft sold, as a kickback for content by Universal artists that was pre-loaded on the device. So why aren’t brands getting involved? There is an opportunity – for now – for pioneers to identify and team up with artists that command huge loyalty among their target audience and to put them at the centre of a joined-up music strategy that could include commissioning exclusive versions and remixes, tracks recorded live at brand events and tunes used in TV ads. This could deliver music in the form that fans want it: digital and free. This music curator approach doesn’t make sense for all brands, but for those that are committed to reaching young opinion formers through music, now is the time to talk to record labels and managers about innovative partnership models. When the new Green Day album is available as a free download thanks to Duff Beer, that’s when you’ll know it’s too late. Graham Hodge
FAILURE TO CONNECT
Tuborg sponsors what is for many the world’s best music festival, Roskilde, in Denmark. How does Tuborg amplify this online? Beautifully shot video footage of highlight acts like Björk and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers? No: a picture gallery. Video of the Wireless festival in London (another O2 property) was hosted by Tiscali, giving the broadband ISP a highly relevant connection with the music – arguably one more relevant than the headline sponsor’s.
Nike commissioned workout music from credible artists like LCD Soundsystem and sold it through iTunes. Volkswagen subsidised on-brand film downloads for free viewing. What’s to stop a brand buying out the rights for a piece of music and offering it in return for data capture as an exclusive free download, promoted via partners, packaging or above the line?
Has Radiohead’s latest move prompted the band’s ex-record label, Parlophone, to consider innovative digital strategies of its own? Has it hell. In November, the ‘Head’s ex-label not only hyped a new “social network” for Kylie Minogue, it also announced a reissue of the Radiohead back catalogue. Kylie Konnect, rather than the multi-platform social experience
BLOGS Music bloggers like Stereogum and Danceblogga are among the most credible – and influential – voices in music. Many offer free streams and downloads alongside editorial, but these are usually of smaller acts whose labels see this as legitimate promotion, or they are illegal and soon disappear. Find the right blog, however, and a brand can fund the relevant parties, earning itself the valuable role of supporter and facilitator of credible music.
5 DIGITAL MUSIC OPPORTUNITIES FOR BRANDS 26
BRANDED WIDGETS Widgets for personal homepages and social networking profiles are suddenly ten a penny, but those for music are generally of the basic (and often legally dubious) iLike variety. Having carefully chosen which bands embody their values, brands should work with their keepers to release songs – as full-length audio or video streams, or, better still, free downloads – via widgets, which fans can then add to their profiles.
P2P Pioneering brands should negotiate 100% buy-outs of exclusive or in-demand tracks for unrestricted distribution in MP3 format, guaranteeing that they will find their way onto peer-to-peer networks – and into the hands of the millions of music fans who use them. This is not for the faint-hearted, of course: the Wild West World of BitTorrent is not the ‘controlled environment’ that brand managers tend to favour. Graham Hodge
promised, turns out to be a painfully Web 1.0 confection of lingerie shots, shameless data capture and particularly soulless copy, all geared towards punting mobile downloads. And the Radiohead reissues? How about a USB drive costing twice as much as the CD boxed set? The perfect complement to that right-priced download of In Rainbows.
ARTIST WEBSITES 2.0 For artists and labels with a better grip on the state of the web, Daft Punk provides an excellent pointer with its new promotional widget. Portable to any page and easily embedded on SNS profiles, the widget provides an onbrand futuristic take on the content of the standard artist
promo site. It’s a fan pleaser and a press kit, and it delivers enough value to work virally. Expect to see the approach used still more as platforms like Google’s new Widgetized AdSense make widgets available as ads on third-party sites.
SOUNDTRACKS TO A BETTER AGENCY BLOG It’s a miracle that most marketing and communications agencies that run their own blogs ever get work advising other companies on how to use social tools. Much respect, then, to New York agency Wiredset, which runs its own
daily-updated mp3 blog. For an agency working in the media and entertainment sector, this adds infinitely more value to its credibility than the stilted press releases or selfconscious ‘thought’ that make up most of the sector’s blogs.
GORILLAZ ON FACEBOOK At the moment, if you want your campaign to be written up in the mainstream media, just do it with Facebook. Such is the case with the promotion for new Gorillaz ‘biography’ Rise of the Ogres, which sees a profile set up for the group’s animated bassist Murdoc Niccals. That said,
the profile is witty and well observed as well as delivering exclusive photo content. At time of writing, one week after its launch, Murdoc has 3,097 friends and – in an essential credibility-maintaining move – has yet to succumb to the icy poking of any variant of the undead.
REALITY CHECK MUSIC Digital is reshaping the music industry, but hasn’t totally transformed it yet. Where we’re seeing the most action, and where we expect to see growth continue over 2008, is in mobile.
The CD isn’t dead yet… Over 2006, digital channels delivered 6% of total music sales across Europe. Globally, digital sales doubled over the same period. By 2011, digital’s share of the European market is forecast to have grown to 36%. CDs aren’t going the way of the cassette just yet, and even the vinyl single showed resurgence in 2007, with sales jumping 13% in the first half of the year. …but its pallbearer is possibly in your pocket Of these digital sales, 37% were through mobile handsets. Music is a leading driver of mobile internet use among young Europeans, with MP3 playback already available on 36% of their phones and desired in a next handset by 65% of them. Then there’s ringtones, easily leading the paid mobile internet services used by younger consumers: 43% of European youth paid for ringtones during 2006. Of course, MP3 players are also in the pockets of one in five consumers, with 50% of downloaders citing these as the spur that got them started. Many of these will never have had CD collections to rip in the first place.
Free music will continue to drive digital forwards In the download market, 74% of 16 to 34-yearold Europeans say they’d like to see a service for downloading music that’s both legal and free. In the meantime, only one in ten of the 20% who regularly download have been prepared to pay for the privilege. Still price after death Free won’t be everything. Those lucrative ringtones, currently contributing 17% of digital music sales by value in the UK, aren’t likely to be given away free through blogs, and you won’t find them distributed commonly on your P2P network of choice. The convenience of handset delivery suggests they’ll still maintain a healthy share of digital music sales moving forwards. The iPhone couldn’t be better timed The iPhone and internet-enabled iPod Touch couldn’t be better timed. Alongside these, kicking back at Apple’s entry into the market through single-operator deals, both Nokia and Vodafone are trying to capture a share through very different approaches. Nokia offers a mobile download store through PCs and selected handsets, and Vodafone is offering subscription services.
European digital music sales by format The Apple model of allowing single songs, disaggregated from the albums they come from, to be purchased individually is having a clear impact on the market for digital albums in the most developed European markets. Most notable are the figures for mobile, both as handset single downloads and as ringtones. Chart: Forrester Research
Sources: Forrester Research, IFPI, International Herald Tribune, BPI.
You used to know where you were with TV. Now, with the very concept of ‘channels’ under revision, we look at the factors forcing this redefinition of how and where content is watched. Are we tuned into a clear, certain vision of television’s future? No. Can we help with reducing the static? We think so. del.icio.us/LBiQ/TV
“There are no short term fixes and no simple recommendations for next year’s budget.”
TV’S BROKEN Azeem Azhar is a board director of Inuk Networks, an IPTV company. Here, he considers the state of what was once simply ‘TV’ and what we should make of it now.
The idiot box has got a whole lot more complicated. For most of its existence, TV was an easily understandable concept. It came through a box in the living room and delivered a handful of channels produced by a small number of sanctioned and vertically integrated channels on which advertising could be sold within parameters set by a regulator. This was the picture in the UK before Sky and British Satellite Broadcasting were allowed into the party in the 1990s. Up to this point there was less of an ‘industry’, more a set of quasi-public institutions operating monopolistic concessions reminiscent of those granted by Queen Mary to the Stationers Company in 1569 in order to prevent the publication of unauthorised protestant propaganda. But now, in the same way that jetlag wasn’t a problem until the coming of jets that could fly non-stop across several time zones, the structure
of the TV industry has become a problem due to the alternatives that technology has provided. It’s a problem that forces us to consider two questions: “What exactly do we mean by ‘TV’ these days?” and “How can brands with their own content and messages best take advantage of whatever ‘it’ turns out to be?” As the marketing and TV industries start to slowly get their heads around this, you can almost hear their thoughts: “Do I try to build a social network around my content? Do I need to distribute direct to my audience over the internet? Or should I bundle my programming into a pay TV bouquet like TopUP TV? Oh, and what about YouTube, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Oh bugger, what about mobile…?” It’s an increasingly complex landscape and – unsurprisingly – if you’re looking for simple answers, you’re unlikely to find them.
This is not just because this market of ever more players with ever more links between them is still evolving, but because the rate at which this evolution is happening is constantly accelerating. To navigate this landscape successfully will require a willingness to kill turkeys as soon as they raise their heads and healthy scepticism for anything that looks like an immediate winner. For example, consider the following: n In 2006 Virgin Mobile launched ‘mobile TV’ through its Lobster phone. The service will shut down at the end of this year because few used it. On the other hand, the iPhone (which nobody was talking about in 2006) comes to the UK bundled with a wi-fi service and access to YouTube from November. n The founders of Skype have backed Joost to deliver video services across the internet, but Joost doesn’t yet have a meaningful audience
or a particularly compelling content line-up. How will it stack up against LiveStation or Zattoo, who stream live TV to computers? n The homemade video Evolution of Dance has received 69 million views on YouTube in two years. A video of a one-year-old laughing to the word ‘plong’ has attracted 26 million viewers. The gorilla drummer of the Cadbury’s Milk Tray campaign has managed to pull in 2 million in a much shorter time frame. n Next year, Sky is launching a lightweight pay TV service called Picnic, which won’t require a satellite dish. n Inuk Networks (declaration of interest – I am a board director) launched a multichannel TV service targeting students this autumn. It’s not alone in offering new targeted content opportunities.
What this flux adds up to is a situation in which there can be no short-term fixes and no simple tactical recommendations to take on board for next year’s budget. The only appropriate response to the chaos is to take a top-down managerial and strategic approach driven by hypothesis: be sure you know what you’re trying to prove before you set out on the journey to get there. There are two postures you can adopt. The first is to take a front-foot stance to get on top of this change. If you decide to do this, equip yourself with three things: some basic principles, flexibility and a portfolio approach. Start with the consumer and what they want – not what they say they want or what they’ve wanted in the past. Believe that they will prefer choice over no choice and simplicity over complexity. Don’t underestimate their willingness to switch or change.
To be flexible, make sure you’re able to respond appropriately to rapidly changing market conditions. Your planning cycle needs to allow you to make decisions without the need to move up or down the chain of command. Think the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2002 rather than Paschendale. Finally, in terms of portfolio, set aside enough resources to fail quickly and move on. Just make sure you’re able to know as much about the reasons for any failure as you do about those for any success. The second posture is, of course, to choose to do nothing – to decide that dealing with and absorbing this kind of volatility is not really your business, that you can afford to watch and wait for things to settle before acting. Just don’t be surprised to find, a few years from now, that others who’ve moved on the front foot already have an unassailable lead.
GOGGLE BOX OR GOOGLE BOX? Within five years, IPTV will change the nature of ‘television’ for good. In the meantime, web TV services offer new options to viewers and advertisers – but should you bother tuning in?
JOOST Very much the big name in the market, Joost’s interface is slick and full-screen. Video content isn’t at TV quality, but it’s by no means YouTube either. Programming comes from majors including Viacom and Warner Brothers and there’s branded content from the likes of Ministry of Sound and Audi. Community/chat functionality is powered by the excellent Meebo. The potential for niche targeting around sport and lifestyle content is clearly apparent – the Poker content is particularly impressive – but spending an evening with Joost is for those who like infomercials only. Content is also interrupted with advertising, though this is limited to three minutes an hour, and brands you’re likely to see include Nokia, Unilever and Vodafone.
BABELGUM Due to move out of beta in early 2008, Babelgum is unashamed of the term ‘long tail’ and wears its targeting focus on its “Every audience has got a niche” strap line. Like Joost, Babelgum features a slick, full-screen interface, but with the video quality not quite there. There are also content similarities with Joost, such as the presence of Ministry of Sound. Advertising revenues (when advertisers do sign up, which hasn’t happened yet) will be split 50-50 with content providers. There isn’t yet the range of content that Joost offers (till then Babelgum will continue to feel like an in-flight entertainment service) but there is a strong focus on short independent films, which offers opportunities to brands involved in sponsorship in this area.
CURRENT TV Current TV, founded by Al Gore, popular in the US and launched in the UK since March, is all about ‘VC2’ (that would be Viewer Created Content). Uploaded in short-form video ‘pods’, this content tends to be focused on real-world ‘non-fiction’ topics. Quality is high, and Current TV helps with post-production. The VC2 approach is also being used for advertising, with several brands running competitions for consumers to create ads to be shown through the service and beyond. It’s a cheap way of reaching new creative talent. Call it a web TV play, though and they’ll take it as a slur – it also operates on both Sky and Virgin in the UK, with popularity online dictating the TV output. Brands looking at reaching young content creators without setting up their own sites and services could do worse than consider Current’s proposition.
Poker – an attractive niche for reaching an affluent male audience, well-targeted by Joost.
In January 2007, speaking at the World Economic Forum, Bill Gates made the confident prediction that convergence between the internet and television would revolutionise the way we watch video content: “I’m stunned how people aren’t seeing that with TV, in five years from now, people will laugh at what we’ve had.” Compare the multi-channel satellite, Freeview or cable experience to the content experiences available online and you’re likely to start laughing now. Take the countless music channels available through Sky; you never see what you actually want. Go to YouTube, however, and the odds are it’s there at your command. And it’s not just the video portals that are moving ‘TV’ out of the box in the corner. Take a look at a popular BitTorrent TV ‘trackers’ such as EZTV and you’ll see every currently popular UK and US show you could possibly want. It’s all there for you to watch – stripped of advertising – when and how you want it. TV content on the consumer’s terms can also be accessed through the PC without breaking the law. This year has seen the launch of on-demand
or ‘catch-up TV’ services by the main UK channels, including the BBC, Channel 4, Sky and Channel Five. It’s just a shame that for the technically competent these legal services are unappealing in the face of the illegal options – just compare the installation and usage of the client for 4OD with that of BitTorrent and a download manager such as Azureus or BitComet. The illegal one’s a breeze; the official route’s a nightmare involving upgrading Java frameworks and Windows Media Player. The most interesting development of 2007 has been in the web TV market. While the choice of when and how you want content from both BitTorrent and broadcaster on-demand services consists mainly of already popular mass-market shows, new services are offering content geared to smaller niche audiences. These services are free and legal to access and aim to provide an element of future community by overlaying functionality such as chat, rating and instant messaging over the programming itself. It’s this proposition of targeting ‘long tail’ audiences – think fans of non-mainstream or lower-league sports, hobbyists or those interested in ‘hyperlocal’ news content – that makes these
players attractive to advertisers looking to reengage through TV in a disrupted landscape. While the real shake-up in the TV market will come with the arrival of ‘over the top TV’ (where programming will be delivered over the internet as ‘IPTV’, bypassing today’s traditional cable and satellite providers and turning your TV from goggle-box to Google-box), this will be a complex transition and isn’t going to become a reality for around five years. In the meantime, what the new web TV players are offering advertisers is a narrow rather than a broadcast approach to gaining eyeballs and one which can be optimised through usersubmitted data in a way that mainstream TV can never be. It’s a route to reaching more relevant consumers at a more realistic cost, and one that’s already being explored by advertisers such as Nike and Coca-Cola and by brands with their own content such as Audi. The question for now, then, is does the reality live up to the hype? In order to look at what the opportunities might be, we’ve spent time installing, watching and in some cases enduring the key players in this new market. © LBiQ 2008. LBi Ltd is registered in England and Wales, the registered number and address are 03080409, 1 Naoroji Street, London, UK WC1X 0JD. Any unauthorised copying, disclosure or distribution of this material is strictly forbidden.
REALITY CHECK TV The internet’s gains are by no means at the expense of the ‘box in the corner’, and we expect to see TV continue to dominate media consumption.
TV continues to hold its own Despite fragmentation in the industry and the internet’s cannibalisation of time spent watching TV, the value of the industry is still increasing, though this increase will be ever more driven by subscription (increasing by 3.5% over 2006) rather than advertising revenues (decreasing by 2.2% over the same year). Increased choice is possibly confusing Although there were 433 channels broadcasting in the UK last year, the share of the five main channels in multi-channel homes remained high at 66.8%. Much of this is down to the popularity of the basic set of channels through Freeview boxes. These overtook satellite as the main route to digital within the home (8.4 million homes vs. 8 million) by the end of Q1 2007. New delivery channels still only reach a minority Mobile TV remains a fond hope of networks desperate to drive data revenues. Only 2% of consumers report any usage of such services, and there is both low awareness and demand for them. Even the much-touted arrival of on-demand and streaming services from legitimate
broadcasting brands has failed to take viewers off their sofas. While 77% of European consumers have broadband and are able to access these services, only 9% have downloaded TV shows from any source and only a marginal 13% of these have been prepared to pay. Time-shifting needs are satisfied by PVRs Many on-demand and catch-up services such as those offered by Channel 4’s 4OD and the BBC iPlayer are far less viable for time-shifted convenience viewing than PVRs are. Some 19% of multi-channel homes already have PVR capability; this is a category dominated by Sky+, used regularly by 28% of Sky subscribers. Brands need tighter integration with content PVRs remain a bigger threat to spots being watched than migration to web TV platforms or ad-free downloads through BitTorrent. But as an IPTV future approaches over the next five years, with all available content converging through a single box, advertisers will need to look to closer integration of brands within content or seek to target users far more tightly than current broadcast models allow.
Minutes spent on media, 2002-2006 TV’s not going anywhere yet, and 1.8 million hours of outputted programming across the UK industry saw us spend an average of 216 minutes a day watching over 2006. The internet is gaining an ever greater share of daily media consumption, but of course much of this is ‘new’ time for media (e.g. while in the office) rather than time cannibalised from other leisure activities. Source: Ofcom 2007.
Sources: Ofcom, Forrester Research.
GAMING Weâ€™re all gamers now, be it through consoles, the web, our phones or other devices. Now, as even the most massively multiplayer online role-playing games become battlefields for brands as well as for orcs and barbarians, we look at the landscape to identity the winning strategies.
TO REACH AND ENGAGE Ross Sleight, Strategy Director at Virgin Games looks out on the gaming landscape and sees opportunities for all.
If you still think, along with the mainstream media, that gaming is just for nerdy, geeky teenagers obsessed by playing out ultra-violent or Tolkeinesque fantasies, then you’d better think again. In July 2007, Comscore released the results of a global online gaming study that finally punctured this misconception of gaming. The study found that 28% of the total worldwide online population had visited an online or downloadable games site over the previous month. This equates to a staggering 217 million unique visitors worldwide. These weren’t just single visits, either; online gamers visited these sites nine times in the month on average. That’s some 2 billion visits – every month. The fact is that gaming online is mainstream entertainment. It’s more popular and ‘sticky’ than movies or music online. Every age group and demographic plays. The narrow media representation of gaming is fuelled by what we term as ‘core’ gaming: the shoot-em-ups and role playing offered by titles like Quake and World of Warcraft. Gaming itself is far broader, from Sudoko to Pac-Man, Scrabble to Monopoly, and is probably best defined as
‘competitive amusements that rely on a user’s skill, strategy and luck’. Gaming is immersive, interactive and ageless. It’s also a key tool for online marketers to connect with their customers and engage them with their brands. Of course, brands have been using games to connect with customers since the early days of the marketing web. Where a brand has little content to engage a customer, the answer has often been to build an online game. These games, which we now term ‘advergames’, are small, free and typically simple. The brand gains time spent interacting with customers and users receive both some fun and a marketing message. When distributed through free game sites, high reach can be achieved. It’s a simple equation for marketers – you pay for the customer’s time by providing entertainment. The key issue for advergames has been in measuring their success and ROI. The value of time spent by customers on a game and their perceptions of the brand post-play are expensive to measure; the effect of the game on the user – unless direct response is a key metric – is harder still to quantify. This has meant that for many brands online, their view of a gaming strategy has stopped at advergaming,
“Brands pay for customers’ time by providing entertainment.”
flummoxed by a lack of understanding of the return on their investment. As the web has grown, gaming online has come to mean much more than simple advergames. The opportunities for brands online now include: n Downloadable ‘try before you buy’ games, often in the puzzle, word or card game format, which are termed ‘casual games’ (examples include Bejeweled and Pebble). These are played online as well as through proprietary networks such as Xbox Live. n Peer-to-peer games, like Facebook’s Scrabulous, or Attack! – these are often played on social networks. n Virtual worlds (or ‘metaverses’, as the industry terms them) where the game is the purpose (e.g. massively multiplayer online role-playing games such as World of Warcraft), or where the virtual world facilitates gaming inside it (like Second Life or Awomo). n In-Game advertising, where games have adverts placed in them relevant to content or even user profile. The number and demographics of players in the above opportunities are highly variable. >> © LBiQ 2008. LBi Ltd is registered in England and Wales, the registered number and address are 03080409, 1 Naoroji Street, London, UK WC1X 0JD. Any unauthorised copying, disclosure or distribution of this material is strictly forbidden.
“Three quarters of casual games are bought by women, and more than half of players are over 35 years old.” NOW WITH LESS CHEESE << Casual game portals, which particularly appeal to an older, female audience (research has shown that three quarters of casual games are bought by women, and more than half of players are over 35 years old), dominate the Comscore chart of top gaming properties, with services like Real Arcade and Pogo providing high reach to an older, female audience – not one that you would expect to be dominating online gameplay. MMORPGs or metaverses – the daddy of them all being World of Warcraft, with more than 9 million paying subscribers – tend to be played by men, but age ranges are highly variable, with 75% of MMORPG play coming from those aged 20 and over. A quick glance at Scrabulous on Facebook at the time of writing shows over 400,000 daily active users, and one would expect a fairly balanced ratio of male to female players, although statistics aren’t available. What is clear is that with enough research, there are multitudes of audience targeting opportunities amongst existing gaming properties.
Perhaps the key area to understand in creating a gaming strategy is the balance of reach and engagement that these various online gaming opportunities provide. Because gaming is seen as such a sticky, engaging experience, the assumption will be that all games and platforms are equal in their level of engagement with a user. The reality, when you consider the various gaming opportunities in detail, is the exact opposite. There are games that have a high engagement with users, and games that have low engagement. Games with high engagement have a smaller number of users than games with low engagement precisely because those with higher engagement require a greater commitment of time, effort, skill or education by the user to engage. A simple example of this is that a player in a metaverse, a world where the very purpose is the creation and development of an alter ego, has a far deeper engagement and emotional commitment than a simple five-minute puzzle game like Bejeweled.
But Bejeweled has had tens of millions of players, whereas most MMORPGS have player numbers only in the hundreds of thousands. The chart on page 40 illustrates this, with an approximation of the correlation between reach and engagement of the various gaming opportunities. Of course there will always be exceptions to the rule within each gaming opportunity, but the general rule is: the higher the engagement, the lower the reach. It’s important for brands schooled in maximising reach, however, to understand that a lower number of highly engaged users is a positive opportunity; engaging with core VIPs or key opinion formers through lower-reach but more highly engaging games is as important (if not more important) than providing a lower-engagement game for a high-reach, mass audience.
Back in 1984, a shabby clone of Midway’s Burgertime was launched for the ZX Spectrum. Rebranded Mr. Wimpy, it served-up gameplay as poor as the unlamented chain’s burgers. Two decades later, and a collaboration between Xbox and Burger King in the US has brought new life to
fast-food/gaming tie-ins with three games featuring characters from the burger chain’s award-winning ads. In response to sales of nearly 4 million, Burger King’s UK-based developer Blitz has set up a dedicated advergaming unit to respond to enquiries from fast-following brands.
ONE BOX TO RULE THEM ALL ’s on side with EA’s recent call for the development of a universal gaming platform. No more costly branded consoles, simply server-based delivery of games via a set-top box. It’ll still be years before the average front room moves from Xbox to
ex-box, but we reckon digital games delivery is inevitable. Hopefully it’ll also drive some changes to pricing models: pay what you want for Radiohead’s In Rainbows but £39.99 for PlayStation’s Rainbow Six? Gaming’s out of step.
FUTURE PAST Combining both these trends, October saw the launch of a free on-demand advergame for Toyota’s Yaris on the Xbox Live Arena service. It’s not available in Europe yet, but if the early
reviews prove anything, it’s that – even when they’re free – branded games need to do more than recycle the tropes of classics past (in this case, the lame bonus stages of Sonic 2).
WHEN BAD SCI-FI COMES GOOD Most of us want to forget the 1984 sci-fi flick The Last Starfighter, as they launch in-game advertising for the intelligence services in which an arcade game trains its players for war beyond the within the likes of Splinter Cell. Good to see the public sector stars. Clearly it’s close to the heart of someone in GCHQ, though, pushing the boundaries – just a shame it’s the military. © LBiQ 2008. LBi Ltd is registered in England and Wales, the registered number and address are 03080409, 1 Naoroji Street, London, UK WC1X 0JD. Any unauthorised copying, disclosure or distribution of this material is strictly forbidden.
REALITY CHECK GAMING Gaming is becoming an ever more pervasive activity across all digital channels, from PCs to mobile phones. Over 2008, advergaming – already gaining strong momentum – will continue to flourish.
Mobile gaming is big business Over the year to March 2007, £83 million was spent on mobile games in the UK. Gaming leads the paid mobile downloads sector (ahead of even ringtones), and 30% of young Europeans play mobile games at least once a week. Sales through network operators rather than independent providers account for nine out of ten games sold, and it’s at this level that brands should seek relationships to push their own gaming content through on-device mobile portals. Gambling remains less popular than gaming Across Europe, gambling is low on the list of activities enjoyed in leisure time. Nearly twice as many consumers (7%) would rather read celebrity gossip than place a bet (4%). Nevertheless, there is a strong early adopter demographic of younger males driving online gambling forwards. It’s in the UK that online gambling’s gaining most traction, but the most popular form this takes is the socially acceptable playing of the lottery. The National Lottery’s site reaches over 10% of the UK’s national audience, with even the most highly promoted of the new wave of online casinos trailing this at less than 1.5%.
In the console market, Nintendo dominates Nintendo’s DS has shifted over 4 million boxes in the UK, compared to around only 2 million for Sony’s PSP. Additionally, Nintendo’s paradigm-shifting Wii reached the million sales mark after only 38 weeks – 25% faster than the PS2 and 35% faster than the Xbox 360. With 66% female ownership, the DS has a strong appeal to demographics relatively new to gaming. A further suggestion of an older demographic for the DS comes from the success of their Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain? title, played by one in four owners. Brands considering creation of their own gaming properties should look to the DS as well as to the higher-profile Sony and Microsoft offerings. The ad sales industry is already geared up to deliver At the online-enabled PC and console end of the spectrum, advergaming is properly taking off. The global market in this area is predicted to grow from $182.7 million this year to $971.3 million by 2011. The main players, Massive (owned by Microsoft) and IGA, already place in-game ads for global brands including Coca-Cola and Honda. The increased competitiveness of this area was further highlighted by Google’s purchase of Adscape Media this year.
Reach vs. Engagement When considering the opportunities available to target gamers through digital channels, there is a balance to be struck between reach and engagement. Casual games played through the PC or via console portals such as Xbox Live Arcade come closest to a sweet spot for both. 24% of Europeans play single-player games online, and around 10% of these play at least once a week. Chart: Ross Sleight.
Sources: Forrester research, GFK Group, Chart track, Netratings, Nintendo, Yankee Group
As user-generated content sites continue to drive the growth of the web and disrupt traditional media and entertainment models, LBiQ looks at how brands can gain the most from customer conversations and minimise the risks of falling awkwardly from the most crowded of all current bandwagons. Itâ€™s harder than it looks.
THE LBiQ INTERVIEW: BEN WHEATLEY Consider: it’s 2001; the dotcom crash has screwed up your life; you’ve got a new house; your partner’s pregnant; and your career future is looking decidedly Waitrose-shaped. What do you do? If you’re Ben Wheatley, you decide to spend the family savings on buying the time to teach yourself the skills for getting into the games design industry. Reality, however, turned out to be less about honing the skills of games design and more about obsessively (often up to five times a day) posting crude, dark and violent animated cartoons to the B3ta.com discussion board – or “trying to look busy”, as Wheatley puts it now. B3ta is a community that, still, on any given day is likely have a front-page item to offend almost every social group. Unsurprisingly, users appreciated Wheatley’s work, and – encouraged by this success – he had the confidence to take a viral commission. The result, produced for the Extreme Sports Channel, was long-term LBiQ favourite the 2dudes, a series of Flash animations theoretically promoting the show Tony Hawk’s Legends of the Extreme but where the skating element was minimised in favour of a sense of humour true to both the teenage audience and the B3ta mindset. These four crudely drawn and poorly animated clips did little more than show the two eponymous dudes calling each other ‘gay’. Episode 2 may have expanded the cast list with the appearance of a skeleton Army of Darkness, but – inevitably – they too turn out to be ‘gay’.
Next came a progression from animation to live action. After writing a treatment of 2dudes for Extreme, Wheatley realised that without real experience he’d never get to direct anything. So, in about an hour and assisted by a friend, he made the nine-second Cunning Stunt and initially seeded the clip himself before it appeared in B3ta’s influential newsletter. After 2 million views on Wheatley’s own mrandmrswheatley.co.uk site, it took on a life of its own – it was last seen in Armando Iannucci’s high-concept BBC2 comedy show Time Trumpet. It’s in video that Wheatley’s primarily worked since. He continues to work as a viral director for brands such as Samsung and Philips (for whom he took a gold at last year’s Cannes Cyber Lions) and directs ads for the likes of Pot Noodle. His focus is now on TV, helping out with direction on the previous and upcoming seasons of Channel 4’s Modern Toss and with his own format in production with BBC3 for 2009. LBiQ caught up with him for drinks on the Brighton seafront and a chat about the current state of viral and user-generated content.
So, how did your playing around with live-action take you into doing big brand viral work through agencies? Well, I ended up doing a judging gig for some viral awards and through that I met Maverick Media. They asked if I wanted to work on an Atari pitch, so I did it, won it, and that led to the clip for Act of War, one of Atari’s real-time strategy games. Act of War was a blatantly post 9-11 piece – shaky camcorder footage of an aerial attack on London. Was there pressure at the time to deliver ‘controversial’ work? It might seem like it, but not really. If you want to reach a lot of people, you have to understand their mindset. My work’s never been about shock for the sake of shock; it’s just that I’m interested in the language of the medium. Act of War worked well because it was shaky and handheld. If it were shot like an ad, it wouldn’t have had the same results. But still, shock is still clearly a route to getting the numbers… Broadly, people tend to take three approaches: shock; comedy; and ‘awe’ – something that just
Breakdancing stunts, created by Ben Wheatley for US telco Verizon
makes you say ‘Wow’. Things on a grand scale, like that Levi’s puppet or those Sony Bravia ads. Then you’ve got the films that use skills like cup stacking, or the Fingerskilz pieces I did for HP – things that make you ask, ‘How did they do that?’ That’s my preferred approach.. Viral has obviously grown in importance over the years. How have you found working with bigger agencies and bigger budgets? When I started working with Viral Factory around 2004 I remember asking what the budget had been for Trojan Games, an award-winning 2003 condom campaign. When they told me, my reaction was “What? You’re fucking mental!” It shows how little I knew at the time. The first big job I did with them had an £80,000 budget, and it was terrifying. Yet there are still people who think that viral is synonymous with low budget… It’s that mindset where people believe we’re still in that world which existed for about 10 minutes, where virals cost about £3,000 each and anyone
could make one. The thing is, even if it looks cheap, that’s deliberate. So what would you say it takes to do it well? Post-production skills are vital – being able to achieve stuff that won’t cost a fortune. You also need an understanding of the language of internet film, what’s really popular and watched – not the language of advertising film or TV film. It’s important if you’re going the comedy route, for example, to understand what’s ‘funny’ for an online audience. It’s not ‘too cool for school’ like advertising comedy can be. It’s more down and dirty. Also, the good professional work has to fit snugly beside the better user-generated pieces that are out there. Good virals have got to be true to themselves.
“Some people still believe in that world where virals cost about £3K each and anyone can make one.”
In terms of those differences in humour, are you able to maintain your own vision when you work through an agency? Well, it’s obviously difficult to talk about, though sometimes I feel when I’m working with an agency that I’m not being bullish enough… >>
<< Have you ever seen work fail because it’s come out of the wrong kind of mindset? Oh yeah, but things tend not to go out if they’re really fucked. That clip earlier [referring to a reel of outtakes watched previously] was flawed in a lot of ways. That moustache, that was really bad. The agency insisted on that, honestly, but it wasn’t just that. I kind of also made it a lot more violent than they expected. But yes. It’s difficult to talk about. Let’s move onto user-generated content. A lot of brands are trying to attract creators to branded sites and communities, like that doomed Dr. Martens work… They’re locking the cage when the bird’s already flown. If you’re a creator, there are already places to reach an audience and to get proper feedback. A branded site is just one more place, and one where you’re not going to get a lot of attention or positive feedback. Then there are the terms and conditions; often your work just becomes theirs. Just look at Facebook’s – they’re brutal. How about incentivising users to contribute? I think the psychology of it is that, the bigger the prize, the more daunting it is. I was involved in a job where the prize was supposed to be a trip to space. Hardly anyone entered. More prizes and smaller
prizes, great – you might even know someone’s who’s already won – but if it’s something big, people think they don’t stand a chance. So how do you think a brand could get associated with high-quality, relevant, user-generated video content without running that risk of nobody contributing? Go to where the creators already are. Maybe start considering the films on YouTube like they’re entries to a film festival. They’ve been uploaded to get as much attention and feedback as possible, so if they’re doing the kind of thing that represents your values, you should give them that attention. Look at sports brands, for example. Video portals are full of users showcasing their skills. Why not pull them into a branded channel and offer endorsement, an award or something relevant to their passion, and use this to attract other entrants? The ‘Brand X awards for whatever’. You mentioned Facebook earlier. There’s that trend at the moment of virals designed to provoke discussion, not shock; the kind that get shared on Facebook profiles. I’m thinking work like Dove’s Onslaught. Definitely. I like the people that that are brave enough to provoke real discussion around issues and then not try to lock down that discussion. But
BEN Wheatley’s Top FIVE 2Dudes
Being brave is something of a theme for you, isn’t it? Of course it is. A lot of this stuff and these behaviours and interactions are new, or they’re still evolving. The trick is to minimise the risks of doing anything massively wrong by going about it in the right way. Don’t immediately go out and create a site-based campaign on an ‘if you build it, they’ll contribute’ premise. Look at what’s already out there and how you can participate and add value in those communities. You don’t want to be saying “Come to our site! It’s the best!” – you want to go to where the users are and offer something that makes them want to invite you in. Nice. Another pint? Please.
LBiQ IS When it comes to engaging through truly viral content, some brands are ahead of others. Unilever’s Dove gets further under the skin than most, here, LBiQ looks at how it’s done.
THINKING Dove’s quite rightly awarded Evolution work, promoting the brand’s Self Esteem Fund and the wider ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’, demonstrates the new place of viral in the marketing mix: no longer a ‘throw it at the wall and see if it sticks’ attempt to create word of mouth, but an established, effective and measurable instrument. The success of Evolution and follow-up film Onslaught doesn’t just provide examples of how to produce engaging viral content for an increasingly socially-networked audience, it demonstrates positive lessons in how brands can both encourage and participate in enduring conversations. Approaches to viral often obsess about medium over message. Evolution demonstrates the right way to go about it – message first and medium second. It also highlights the way in which brands should increasingly act in a new marketing landscape where customer values need to be placed before self-image. Some would call this working within the ‘attraction economy.’ You could simply call it ‘obviously a good thing.’ Here are four ways to get there.
It’s not about ‘cool videos’ Dove weren’t obsessed with creating a cool video, but with creating discussion around a real issue and supporting their
Philips amBX The gold medal winner at Cannes 2006 for viral advertising. Violent and mean-spirited, but a great demonstration of the power of postproduction techniques.
core platform of ‘real beauty.’ Film just happened to be the most appropriate and striking way to illustrate this issue.
Walk in the daylight Evolution is clearly (and accountably) Dove branded. There’s no hiding under the unbranded approach so often used as an attempt to increase reach or break traditional brand boundaries. If you’re using branded content, there’s a
strong argument for just admitting it. With only a brief window to capture attention, making your audience do the guesswork may only end in frustration – particularly when the reward is waking up to realise it’s all been an ad.
Embed conversational cues
World Cup-themed Hewlett Packard campaign, winner of best viral at the London International Awards 2006.
Engaging, truly interesting content isn’t enough on its own. (for those for whom the content truly resonates), should all Dove’s work also provides a contemporary master class in how be put to best use. It’s about opening venues for discussion to facilitate discussion: YouTube; Facebook; send-to-a-friend as well as simply seeding the topic. functionality; forums; and even ‘add video to profile’ links
Act of War
Conversation runs two ways
In this controversial post-9-11 piece, shaky camera work pans from a family group on the side of the Thames to an assault on London as missiles target a plane above Parliament.
Two mice are used to untangle stereo headphones as a part of a promotion for Samsung’s Bluetooth headphone-enabled music player range.
Dove is also clearly encouraging properly open discussion. If the campaign is criticised in the brand’s forum, the critical comments are left uncensored. If there’s one key lesson to learn for the future, it’s that it’s no longer enough
Flash animation for the Extreme Sports Channel, targeting a young male audience with catchphrase-driven humour and repeated riffs around the same characters.
you have to be brave – if you’re asking your audience what they really think of your products and the way you present them, you need to be brave enough to listen to the answers. It’s also important to stick with it; a discussion-based campaign or one that really owns issues has the potential to run for years online without costing loads.
for any brand to pretend to be the only person in the room and to posture impotently in front of a mirror like Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle – only with a misfiring marketing budget in place of a gun.
MAKING OR BREAKING IT?
“You’ll end up hosting a ghost community filled with tumbleweed rather than the branded viral assets you’re anticipating.”
As advertisers begin to explore the opportunities offered by the rise of user-generated content, it’s clear that some experiments are more successful than others. Can the success of UGC activities ever be predicted? Far too often, branded UGC initiatives seem to suffer from the same basic ‘build it and they will come’ misassumption that saw user figures (and the revenue ‘predictions’ around them) exaggerated in the start-up business plans of the first dotcom era.
– not just a simple prize – for successful contributors; and a real sense of shared values. LBiQ looks below at examples across three distinct types of branded UGC plays and identifies how these factors work in practice.
The central issues in the success of UGC propositions are clearly emotional: you stand a better chance of success if you can tap into the shared values and passions of your audience – particularly if those passions are centred on creative ambition, and especially if you offer appropriate incentivisation. Assume, however, that a forced or tenuous link between your brand and the outputs you’re hoping for will generate quality content just because ‘that’s what users are doing online now’, and you’re liable to be hosting a ghost community filled with tumbleweed rather than the branded viral assets you’re anticipating. UGC can work for brands if three key factors are taken into account: appropriate setting of the level of entry and quality bars; a sense of achievement
The customer-created ad Inspiring its users to express their devotion openly, Apple is a rare brand. Now a UK student, Nick ‘I got my first Mac aged 3’ Haley is responsible for an official iPod Touch TV spot running in the US. Created from already available Touch clips with a soundtrack by CSS dubbed over the top (key line: “My music is where I’d like you to touch”), the clip was uploaded to YouTube, where its potential was recognised by Apple. Try to prompt this manner of fan outpouring from the top down, however, and you’re likely to be less successful. Take General Motors. In 2006, they offered prizes to users who took a series of pre-provided clips and soundtracks to generate their own online ads for the Chevy Tahoe SUV. Cue a series of ‘officially’ branded clips taking
GM to task for promoting environmentally unfriendly vehicles. Then there’s the content you can receive if you don’t provide guiding templates to raise the quality bar. The spectre of low-rent camcorder clip shows hangs over Lucozade’s Get Your Edge Back UGC campaign site. The loose concept of a filmed ‘Lost Your Edge Moment’ – intended to find a winning clip for an online ad execution – has resulted in what seems like a distinctly off-brand showreel of clips featuring people falling over or off their bicycles. In the winning clip, a man falls into a hole. The low entry requirement and the ongoing prizes on offer, however, have at least generated enough contributions to populate the site. The best way of soliciting your own consumer-generated media is, unless you’re Apple, to ensure that quality is built in from the start: you should be aiming for an X Factor standard of talent, not Friday night karaoke. The model taken by Current TV (discussed on page 33) offers access to ‘pre-auditioned’ talent, with brands promoting their creative briefs to the competent filmmakers
who form the channel’s community. This brings in serious, capable work from artists/directors looking for exposure. It’s a route already taken by brands including Sony and Toyota, and one that’s considerably cheaper than trying an open casting-call approach and optimistically hoping for quality.
launched worldwide. No longer is Dr. Martens implausibly trying to take a private share of the sum total of musical and artistic creativity more commonly found on public sites. Instead, it’s connecting with its core audience through an incentive geared to drive credible talent to contribute. This seems to make more sense.
Passion plays Consider the potential of a walled community peopled only with your advocates – creative customers engaged by your entreaties to ‘make art, make fun of art, shock, express yourself, entertain’. In this case the brand was Dr. Martens, urging membership of its Flash-developed (and all but invisible to Google as a result) creative social network FreeDM2 at the end of 2006. A year later, membership numbers were reported to have reached only 4,000. The brand has now adopted a new approach to harnessing consumer creativity, with an infinitely more real-world competition to create a design for a new pair of boots, to be
Possibility over probability And then there are the propositions that just seem unlikely ever to work, and which demonstrate that just because you might be able to kick-start a viral UGC video craze doesn’t mean that you will. A simple rule of thumb is to throw best practice customer-centred objectivity out of the window and consider whether you can see yourself taking part in any of the many UGC branded propositions launched in 2007. Take mayonnaise brand Hellman’s, which signed up 2007 Britain’s Got Talent finalists The Bar Wizards. The duo’s cocktail-shaking skills were turned into a TV spot involving high-end juggling of squeezy mayonnaise bottles and a
website has followed, urging users to upload their own examples of Squeezy Stunts for the chance to win an iPod shuffle. The thing is, people don’t appear to be making a natural link between squeezy mayonnaise and ‘flair’ bartending skills, let alone juggling the bottles themselves. Submissions are low, and the clips are clearly not making it virally into the wild via YouTube, where the brand’s 80s adverts remain more popular. The key lesson in putting consumer creativity to work for brands is never to assume that users will do what you hope for unless it’s something they’re already doing – in which case, the best way to harness this activity is never going to be the creation of your own off-highway silos where creativity is clearly being directed more for your benefit than that of the creators.
REALITY CHECK UGC User generated content is expanding the volume of web pages out there and giving a handful of creators their 15 minutes of fame. There’s an attention economy going on, but that doesn’t mean this content has any real value to anyone but its creators.
Growing the web, but at what value? User-generated content continues to be responsible for growth in the size of the web. March 2007 figures from blogosphere index Technorati show that blogs continue to mushroom at a rate of 1.4 every second of every day. Likewise, Photobucket and Flickr host around 3 billion photos between them, growing at a rapid pace. This content is by no means valuable to advertisers, however – or indeed to most users.
Much of YouTube’s short neck is professionally produced It’s the same with YouTube. While the site was responsible for serving over 9,000 years’ worth of video in its first year, popular and successful content is – in the main – professionally produced, originally for other formats. You’ll find more genuinely popular amateur content on X-rated imitator Pornotube, visited in the average week by 1.25% of the entire global internet population.
Sharecropping works, little else does This dynamic doesn’t make it easy to profit from UGC. The portals making money from UGC videos, photos or discussion are operating a sharecropping system. The means of production is in the hands of the many, but the potential for profit lies only with those few who can aggregate on a grand scale. Alongside this, while the number of pages available as online advertising inventory is increasing, most of these are low-value web junk sold at knockdown CPMs.
Focus on stimulating discussion For brands looking to benefit from UGC, the focus should remain on stimulating discussion. The small percentage of ‘creators’ out there, at best judged at 13% of users in any community, are creating for themselves – not for brands. They crave attention and exposure, and this means making their work as public as possible: through MySpace rather than the branded new band demo site, or YouTube rather than those competitions for humorous clips. SNS applications are an attractive route Campaigns through social networks offer opportunities for brands to gain reach and engagement in an attentiondriven UGC landscape; but these are more likely to be gained through applications – be they on Facebook or the new OpenSocial platform – than through display advertising. That said, the current branded applications on Facebook are yet to set the social world on fire.
Blog creation and abandonment, Europe Q3 2006 With so much user-generated content vying for attention, it’s no wonder that, while many try, most give up in the absence of any audience. The means of content production and publication are now widely distributed, but talent remains as thinly spread as ever. Source: Forrester. Sources: Technorati, YouTube, Netratings, Forrester Research
REMAINDERED IMAGE 21/09/07 Our fashion editorial concept for USC required real people with real attitude. Flawless ‘high fashion’ models felt too remote, whereas faceless mannequins were eerie and lifeless. With time and budget tight, we developed an informal, lo-fi photographic style and selected models from within the agency. Here’re our favourite images that didn’t make the cut.
Previous page DAVE WEARS DIESEL
Opposite BAZ WEARS BENCH
DELROY WEARS GIO-GOI WHITE LABEL
Above TREVOR WEARS GIO-GOI Opposite ALEX WEARS REPLAY
Opposite CHRIS WEARS LEE This page DAVE WEARS DIESEL
Opposite TOBY WEARS G-Star Raw This page DAVID WEARS HILFIGER DENIM
JEREMY WEARS G-STAR RAW
RUPERT WEARS FIRETRAP
Opposite ANDY WEARS FIRETRAP
Subsequent page TREVOR WEARS ADIDAS
Photography MICHAEL BURNS Art direction & ironing JOHN PAUL THURLOW & JOHN TAYLOR Styling LYNDSAY McGONIGLE & JOHN PAUL THURLOW Thank you www.usc.co.uk THE MODELS WHO GAVE THEIR TIME FREELY NAOROJI OFFICE SERVICES CREW
INSIDER THINKING 66: T he full service agency – Alan Davies 68: P roduct Relationship Management – Lorenzo Wood 71: Collaboration – Dominic Collier 74: Web 3.0 – Joe Schab 76: Usability – Ivanka Majic 78: Open Source at LBi – Ben Cotton 80: Virtual worlds – John Williams 84: Media – Caroline McGuckian
Such outsourcing arrangements resulted in win-win opportunities. Clients benefitted through service-level agreements built around non-delivery penalties and scalable access to expertise, and suppliers gained annuity revenues and the potential to develop incremental business opportunities with lower cost of sale through trusted long-term relationships. From our perspective at LBi, we’re beginning to see a similar switch in the way that many of our clients are approaching the new IT environment of the web. As understanding of the interlocking relationships between online media, advertising and core e-channel services grows, so does the recognition that ‘business as usual’ no longer constitutes standing still and waiting for the next step-change in development. Instead, the nature of business as usual is rapidly becoming the art of ongoing optimisation. Core capability in this area requires a daily focus on the fine-tuning of both online marketing campaigns and the e-channel services that these work alongside to acquire and retain customers. This shift in understanding has its parallels in the earlier incarnations of IT. When web technologies were new, outsourcing was the only option. Large businesses later began to ‘in-house’ and vertically integrate these capabilities, building up large teams of developers – particularly those trained in the emergent portal technologies of the time. As with Ford’s approach in the 1900s, the first years of this century saw large sums of money invested in processes, controls and management structures to support these new digital arms of the business. Infrastructure became unwieldy at the cost of agility and focus on core capabilities, and the potential for innovation was inevitably diluted. This is how much of the web industry currently operates. In-house teams manage business as usual e-channel activities, while third-party online media agencies manage the customer acquisition, retetention and digital branding functions. Meanwhile, the transformational work of complex, incremental ‘design and build’ projects is outsourced to agencies. Nevertheless, the same market conditions that saw traditional infrastructure and professional services businesses converge are starting to be seen around these new skills and technologies. Increasing numbers of businesses for whom the web is a core channel are realising that managing in-house teams and multiple agencies under different contract structures is a similarly unnecessary stretch on resources that leads to a dilution of capability. It’s no surprise that we believe smart companies should be taking the Katherine Hudson approach. Over the last year we’ve seen the benefits
of this for both ourselves and our clients as ever more of our services – all centred on core web capabilities – are retained on a long-term basis by an increasing number of customers. For example, our media team is typically appointed in agency of record relationships, our customer researchers are embedded within ongoing programmes of analysis and reporting, and our consulting, user experience and design teams participate on client boards to help shape forthcoming programmes of activity. As the parallels between an older IT industry and our business become more apparent, we expect to see this trend continue and accelerate among a client base for whom the success of their e-channel is core to bottom-line business performance. And, just as in the earlier business of outsourced IT, skill sets are converging: development agencies are starting to build and buy media businesses, and the media companies are starting to create project delivery capabilities. Given the benefits that a smoothly running, continually improving web presence will deliver, it is likely that before long LBi will be offering a fully outsourced service to its clients, handling the operation, development, promotion and daily optimisation of the web channel. We expect to see this controlled by service-level agreements delivering a contribution straight to the bottom line. Where might this trend lead? Well, consider the case of Ford’s original market. As rapid innovation continues to change the way that markets work, the ultimate ambition for many companies in the automotive industry is to own little more than their brand and customers. All other aspects have the potential to be ‘virtually’ handled through strategic partner relationships. It’s a vision we’re committed to helping deliver, including the taking on of traditional business as usual services.
At the start of this century, Henry Ford pioneered the development of the ‘vertically integrated supply chain.’ By bringing upstream and downstream businesses (the producers of steel and rubber, for example) under a single organisational umbrella, Ford aimed to extract the maximum value from every piece of the early automotive industry pie.
FULL SERVICE FUTURE ALAN DAVIES, head of LBi’s strategic services team, looks at the drive towards outsourcing in the 1990s and what it suggests for the agencies of today.
“‘Business as Usual’ no longer constitutes standing still and waiting for a next step-change in development.” 66
In 1994, 86 years after the first Model T rolled off the production line and the year that the term ‘strategic outsourcing’ was first used, Eastman Kodak executive Katherine Hudson signed a deal that Ford would never have countenanced. Hudson outsourced the imaging giant’s mainframe-based IT infrastructure to IBM and, in doing so, established the imperative for organisations to focus wholly on their core competencies and capabilities. “Our mission,” she explained, “doesn’t say ‘be the world leader in computing’.” Ford’s model began its decline throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s. Companies built around a vertically integrated supply chain lacked the agility to move at the required pace of a properly global market, and – among other problems – failed to realise the benefits of healthy competition between suppliers. The trend throughout the 90s towards costefficiency via outsourcing led to an across-theboard focus on this concentration around core capability. Beyond IT, support services – from HR and legal to accounting and maintenance – were outsourced to competitive external suppliers; themselves experts in these, their own core capabilities. It’s this focus on ‘sticking to the knitting’ (as the cliché has it) that informs the way LBi looks at its own business – and, as legal or accountancy skills aren’t the core competencies of an agency founded on marketing and technology capabilities, it’s inevitably the example of the IT industry that we turn to when we examine the drivers and imperatives that shape our marketplace as it moves forwards. When the outsourcing trend first started, commercial IT businesses were operating two types of supplier services on behalf of their clients: hardware businesses took on long-term, low-margin contracts to support IT infrastructure, while professional services firms ran shorter-term but higher-margin development contracts for the same organisations. The boundaries between these two models soon began to erode. Infrastructure-focused companies such as IBM and EDS either built or – as with IBM and PwC in 2002 – acquired professional services capabilities. The full-service capabilities these organisations were able to offer then enabled the establishment of preferred supplier relationships for long-term contracts with a united client base.
IN PRAISE OF ANONYMITY
“PRM exploits the manufactured product as a unique token of identity, putting the product rather than the customer at the heart of dialogue.”
As powerful a tool as customer relationship management (CRM) is, its need for personal identification and authentication is an increasing challenge as channels multiply and the public becomes more concerned about privacy. Lorenzo Wood discusses LBi’s product relationship management (PRM) solution which complements CRM by putting products at the centre of customer interactions. It increases contact with customers, improves loyalty and lifetime revenue, and uncovers data from the part of your customer base that resists personal identification for privacy reasons. CRM is an important tool for most large companies. It puts customers at the heart of strategy, driving acquisition of new customers, improving loyalty and lifetime revenue from existing customers, and helping to reduce the costs of customer service. Properly implemented, it gives companies a single view of their histories with each customer combined with a common set of business rules, so that every interaction with a particular customer over any channel forms part of a single dialogue. Not only does this allow great customer experience, but having comprehensive data by customer allows business rules to be evaluated and refined continuously, steadily improving performance and providing early warning of the emergence of new customer segments. Today, the rise of social networks provides a rich additional source of intelligence for CRM databases, along with the challenge of integrating that intelligence accurately. Customers themselves are using more and different channels – particularly mobile – and expect the companies they deal with to be available through those channels. Getting the most from CRM is a great challenge. Above all, a CRM strategy needs the right
metrics that align with business goals. It needs customer-facing business processes to be effective users of, and contributors to, CRM data, and this often means substantial re-engineering. Assessing and improving the quality of customer data is also vital. Inappropriate offers based on precise but inaccurate data can be very detrimental to customer confidence: misplaced options on a web site look confusing and hint at fraud, and call centre staff can be over-zealous in defending ‘what the computer says’, even in the face of direct contradiction from frustrated customers. Of particular concern is CRM’s need to identify – indeed, to authenticate – customers at every touch. Increasing demands for registration make customers reticent to remember yet another login. Concerns about privacy – exacerbated by high-profile cases of confidential information being hacked – also encourage customers to take steps to conceal their identities (regularly clearing browser cookies, for example). The more frequent your contact with your customers, the more data you get and the better for your CRM. Content, communities and outbound campaigns are all part of the digital marketer’s armoury to increase that frequency.
For product manufacturers, particularly makers of consumer durables, we have developed an additional weapon for that armoury. LBi’s PRM solution exploits the manufactured product as a unique token of identity, putting the product rather than the customer at the heart of dialogue. It is a complement to CRM, not a replacement for it. It can be applied to many of the same metrics – frequency of contact, loyalty, lifetime value – while purposely avoiding personal identification. In this way, we capture additional contact history that, at best, we might otherwise have had to consider as bulk, averaged data and, at worst, we might have missed altogether. The most obvious feature of PRM is a web address that appears on each product. The web address is unique to the individual product, not just to the make or model. A web address, by itself, is a call to action; it is supported by appropriate collateral in the box encouraging customers to try it. The address is for a web page for that specific product, where visitors will find concise and comprehensive information relevant to the product: instruction manual, support forums, details of accessories, fault diagnostics, warranty, fault >> © LBiQ 2008. LBi Ltd is registered in England and Wales, the registered number and address are 03080409, 1 Naoroji Street, London, UK WC1X 0JD. Any unauthorised copying, disclosure or distribution of this material is strictly forbidden.
<< reporting, consumable purchase and so on. By itself, this is great customer experience: a direct route through to everything you need to know about your product. The top-level navigation for all the standard information is simple, stable and compact. Most of the page is used for promotion: guidance on how to use the product, case studies, online training, consumable purchase, related products and accessories. The choice of promotional content is made by business rules that use the history of interaction with this product as base data. For example, the first time someone visits the product’s page, we reasonably assume the product is new and provide ‘Welcome to…’ content. By careful choice of options, we can infer something about the owner. For example, that first page for a digital camera might include a feature on how to take great portraits and another on using depth of field preview; visitors reading the latter are likely to be more knowledgeable about cameras, and we can respond accordingly. The promotional content is the mechanism that we use to drive valuable behaviour and, in particular, to reinforce the idea of visiting the product page more frequently. By encouraging contact with the manufacturer, always anchored to an individual product, we increase the opportunities for capturing historical data about the product and influencing its owner and users. Putting the product at the centre of this interaction eliminates personal identification and authentication as a barrier. The product itself is the authenticator; knowing the product’s web address is proof enough. This is clearly imperfect; we therefore draw inferences from product interaction histories, rather than asserting facts, and we design our rules accordingly. For example, if we see repeated access with the same cookie we can reasonably assume the product is in the hands of the original owner. If the cookie disappears from the history, we reduce our confidence in that inference. If we see someone with a known cookie accessing two
different product pages, we have reasonable confidence that the same person (or household) owns both of our products. As well as eliminating concerns about privacy, avoiding personal identification makes other useful behaviours much easier. Customers can bookmark their product pages. They can safely share them with others to support conversations about their products. Including QR codes (twodimensional bar codes that can be read with a mobile phone camera) on products allows easy access to the product’s page on a mobile phone simply by pointing at the product – great for capturing intent at the point of need. Because contact history is organised by individual product, the PRM database is susceptible to many of the same kinds of analytics that can be applied to CRM, with the same results – improved cross- and up-selling, greater loyalty and increased intelligence about evolving market segmentation. LBi’s PRM solution is easy to integrate. It can be implemented entirely within your firewall or, like major CRM providers such as Salesforce.com, RightNow and Siebel, purchased on a softwareas-a-service basis. There are three tiers of services ranging from basic product history access and management to complete best-practice content experience on web and mobile; you use what you need depending on how much you prefer to own. PRM captures and exploits behaviour relating to products people own and use, increasing contact with customers, improving customer experience, loyalty and lifetime revenue, and unlocking data from the part of your customer base that resists personal identification for privacy reasons.
“Putting the product at the centre of this interaction, eliminates personal identification as a barrier.”
Play nicely now, children Dominic Collier, Publishing Director of LBiQ, looks at the potential pitfalls of multi-agency projects and how best to avoid them.
listen to each other. That survey referenced singleclient/single-agency relationships specifically, but the potential problems only increase for singleclient/multi-agency gigs. So, with all this in mind, back in my pitch room, I prepared to mouth the platitudes – only for my Account Director, Chris, to jump in with a very different line. “Well, we’ll do our best – but I think it’s your job to manage us, isn’t it?” he asked. I made a rapid mental note to fire him, but then paused to let justice have its say. After all, Chris had spent the previous 12 months being jerked around by a supremely hands-off client who liked to throw nine or ten agencies into the pit on every project and let them fight it out. The wounds were still fresh. So there was a large slice of truth in his clearly rhetorical question, as well as a stunned and not altogether comfortable silence in the room. He’d said something that the client didn’t want to hear; how would they react? Now, I’ve worked extensively on both the agency and client sides, and I know that cutting agencies too much slack in order to lighten your own workload is easy to do. But, as the AAR survey
shows, when communication and relationship management aren’t treated as mandatory priorities, avoidable mistakes start to occur. Throw more than one agency into the mix and communications problems increase exponentially. The most difficult situations occur when a well-established incumbent has to accommodate the arrival of new young guns, usually with smarter new technology and fresher ideas about how best (or most profitably) to use it. This is, of course, why they get hired in the first place. In this situation, some protectiveness of the client relationship by the lead agency is perfectly natural, if not necessarily professional. New agencies joining established accounts are often refused access to clients, chaperoned by lead agency representatives at every meeting and obliged to have their own specialised advice about their area of expertise re-presented to the client by the lead agency, often poorly. Then there’s the money thing. Aggressive pursuit of individual revenues is inevitable, even when direct competition for rival agencies’ work is closely monitored. Padding starts appearing in estimates from non-lead agencies once they get >>
Not long ago, in a pre-LBi life, I led a pitch where the potential client asked how we’d feel about working alongside a rival agency. We’d get the design work, they’d get the IA. Would that be a problem? I mentally rehearsed the usual client services spin: of course not, establish good working relationships, clear expectations, single points of contact across disciplines, strong project management on both sides, shouldn’t we all go for a drink and get to know each other? Good intentions and common sense; the usual. Low on detail and rich in exception clauses. I knew, of course, that it would probably be a nightmare. It almost always is. We all make the same carefully caveated noises about cooperation prior to project initiation, but clients only hear what they want to hear – that we’re all going to play nicely and that the project will proceed as planned. According to a recent survey run by agency search and selection consultants AAR, some 88% of clients and 95% of agencies believe that clientagency relationship breakdowns are avoidable and the most frequently cited reason for these breakdowns is the failure of clients and agencies to
<< wind of what the lead agencies are billing.
“It’s a simple matter of going in eyes wide open, assuming the worst will happen if you don’t stop it, and never, ever assuming that the children will play nicely.” 72
Handling fees as a percentage mark-up for subcontractors start being applied. Unsurprisingly, clients start getting annoyed when this kind of thing happens and, eventually, the smarter ones realise that ‘the team’ has disintegrated into an unseemly ruck and maul for the budget, and fire either the cheapest or the guiltiestlooking troublemakers. How do you avoid this happening? It’s a simple matter of going in eyes wide open, assuming the worst will happen if you don’t stop it, and never, ever assuming that the children will play nicely. In this particular pitch, the client looked stern and said she’d let us know – which she did, awarding us the work later that week. She also commented that although she wasn’t used to being told how to do her job, she’d taken Chris’ advice on board and had resourced extra project management to ensure that the two separate agencies did work together as planned, and not just as hoped for. The resulting work was good enough, if not exceptional, and the project ran smoothly, without any of the intraagency squabbling that usually typifies collaboration. The teams at LBi have been in this situation enough times to know that collaboration doesn’t always come easily. It’s this experience that led to ‘collaborative’ being embedded in the company culture as one of its three core values. While we can’t claim that we’re experts, we certainly prioritise effective co-working in all our commercial relationships, internally and externally. The following suggestions embody the things we’ve learned over the years, as individuals, team members and agency (and client) representatives
on multi-team projects; while they’re not a manifesto, they at least provide some useful pointers towards more effective team work. After all, as the convergence of media and technology is mirrored by smaller, increasingly fragmented and harder-to-reach audiences, the need for hand-picked multi-agency teams of specialists and generalists is only going to increase and we are all likely to be involved in collaborative projects more, not less. n Agree commercial relationships up front and only involve those with overall financial responsibility. Share and agree rate cards and, ideally, margins. We all know we’re in this to make money by delivering value for the client. Openness is important. If an agency can offer an equivalent service for less money, and therefore provide better value than another, let it. n One team, one project. Create single, multi-agency creative and technical teams, and remove them from commercial discussions. This allows for a focus on the best possible work, rather than on the implications of revenue and profit. n Get the team agreed up front. Avoid introducing agencies later in the process because it’s hard to get that inclusive feeling once the work is under way. Kick projects off with the whole team and the client present. Use this meeting to agree high-level objectives but avoid ‘do/ don’t’, ‘can/can’t’ details. If there is one creative masterplan – the ‘big idea’ – make sure that it’s communicated and discussed in this meeting, particularly the issues of who ‘owns’ the idea and who will have final signoff on creative.
n Be open in discussing quality. It’s important
that criticism happens within the joint team and is always outcome-focused. Keep the focus of criticism on the client’s objectives, and use objective measures where possible to settle debate on the basis of user research rather than individual or agency opinion. Keep the client up to date about the actions that arise from these discussions. n Give the joint team appropriate access to the client. Encourage different combinations of team members to visit/work with clients where this supports the client’s objectives. Make it the responsibility of each team member to help the team deliver the best work for the client. Finally, here are three things clients should try. 1. Performance-related remuneration: include an incentivised collaboration fee measured by quality of communication, overall success and inter-agency survey/peer review. 2. Outsource project management: make the problem go away by paying a specialist agency that does nothing but project management to deal with it. 3. <plug> Where possible, select agencies that have all the capabilities you need in-house and can cover all the work under one roof. The arguments about who does what and for what fee will still happen, but they’ll be on the agency’s budget, not yours. </plug>
“Is the ubiquitous web the next big thing? Don’t hold your breath.”
People lie, they’re lazy and they’re stupid Joe Schab, CEO of LBi Atlanta, looks at the assumptions around, and barriers to, a ‘semantic’ Web 3.0.
I’ve never been a fan of the versioning fad – the Web 2.0 or Web 3.0 monikers thrown about by the media. It cheapens and simplifies significant advances in technology for the purpose of easing the intellectual burden on the masses. It assumes that people won’t get it – that they won’t understand, grasp or adopt complex ideas without pithy conceptual phrases to frame the discussion. Since versioning the web looks as though it’s here to stay, however, kicking against it would be fighting a losing battle. So let’s run with it for now. Ever since Web 2.0 was heralded in 2005, many people have wondered what Web 3.0 would ‘look like’, and what technologies would come to represent it. First, let’s level set a bit: 1. Web 2.0 started out as the name of a conference, the Web 2.0 Conference, and that name had a very specific purpose: to signify that the web was making a comeback after the dotcom bust. The 2.0 name wasn’t about the technology, but about the resurgence of interest in the web. Despite the crash, some forward thinkers saw “exciting new applications and sites popping up with surprising regularity”, and designed a conference to discuss the next chapter. 2. For Web 3.0 to be meaningful, we’ll need to see another surge forwards from the current generation of technology. That might be another
bust and clean out of the less useful/valuable commercial and technical creations of the Web 2.0 era; or, more likely, it will be something qualitatively different, another evolutionary step in terms of what the web can and will do. In order to investigate what this nextgeneration web will look like, we have to first understand what exactly Web 2.0 is and what it is not. It is a popular belief that 2.0 is all about front-end interface, social media, AJAX, tagging, mash-ups and so on. It’s not. Every major Web 2.0 play is a back-end story. It’s about meaning and intelligence. It’s about building applications that harness network effects that get better the more people use them, and you can only do that with a richer back end. Google, for instance, is the ultimate Web 2.0 success story, and it’s all back-end. So what has this accomplished? While the tech sector and the media focus on the peculiar activities of the Facebook generation, the real story is happening in the lives of everyday people. Google has become the go-to resource for all things from the innocuous or vanity-related to the commercial, and everything in between. Yahoo! Local has replaced the Yellow Pages for providing information about local businesses. People have connected on all sorts of common ground to share everything from recipes to confessions, and the content of Web 1.0 has been ubiquitously integrated
with the social technologies of Web 2.0 to provide a massive variety of seamless experiences. Currently I believe we’re standing on the doorstep of another evolutionary period. Looking out over the next few years, there’s something brewing beyond Web 2.0, and this something will involve some fairly significant steps forward. But what will be the overarching story of any ‘Web 3.0’? A number of different visions are out there; let’s look at three.
“The real story is happening in the lives of everyday people.”
The ubiquitous web “The ubiquitous web will provide people with access whenever and wherever they find themselves, with applications that dynamically adapt to the user’s needs, device capabilities and environmental conditions.” – Philipp Hoschka, W3C. This is the official W3C line on ‘what happens next’, and that august body of web standard guardians is going after it with customary zip, zeal and vigour. The focus is on mobile, multi-modality, applications and speech-enabled browsing. It’s all about making it easier to experience the web anytime, anywhere, anyhow. Yes, anyhow: “With multimodal web applications, users can provide input via speech, handwriting and keystrokes, with output presented via displays, pre-recorded and synthetic speech, audio, and tactile mechanisms such as mobile phone vibrators and Braille strips.” Better mobile web experiences, standard app builds and talking (and listening) browsers all sound – and in time will doubtless also feel – fantastic. Like almost all (alright, many) W3C projects, some of this will find its way through the bureaucracy to become the standard way of doing things, but it will take a very long time and entrepreneurs will almost certainly jump the gun and get there first. Is the ubiquitous web the next big thing? Don’t hold your breath.
The home-made Web Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s vision is somewhat different to that of W3C. Schmidt thinks Web 3.0 is going to be about – probably already is about – very small applications that are pieced together cottage industry-style by a vast army of developers who, rising like lions after slumber in unvanquishable number, will feed a perceived need for applications such as ‘Compare my favourite films’ and ‘Hot or Not’. These will be very small apps, according to the Googlemeister, and infinitely customisable. Like W3C, he thinks they will run on all devices, but unlike W3C, he’s not too bothered about standards, except for the standard ‘Ads provided by Google’ panel at the bottom of the page. What else stands out in the Google version? This new (and potentially terrifying) web of useless, shonky programmes will be ‘very fast’, distributed by viral means (rather than purchased) and – I’m guessing here – funded by advertising. The data will be in ‘the cloud’, not held by specific machines. Is this the immediate future most likely to claim a ‘3.0’ suffix? Well, looking at the model – low barriers to entry, easy access to free tools (provided by Google), and works everywhere – very possibly. As Bertrand Russell observed on first reading Brave New World, “It is all too likely to come true”.
The semantic web Now here’s something that, while also distinctly unnerving, does actually make sense. Unfortunately, the semantic web relies on people and – as the estimable Cory Doctorow noted as long ago as 2001 in his delightful monograph Metacrap: Putting the torch to seven straw-men of the meta-utopia – people lie, people are lazy and people are stupid. The semantic web would see machines and code getting more and more intuitive about what it is that we dishonest, idle, moronic human beings want. In the semantic web, self-evolving web pages and applications will anticipate what any given audience – by which I mean any sentient entity, from an individual to an entire population – means and desires when it calls for a given piece or assembly of information. For example, if I’m in context A when I search for or request page B, the semantic web will know that I am likely to want page B to contain elements X, Y and Z and will return it accordingly. Now, we’d all love some of that – Google, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the W3C included – but the flaw lies in the unlikelihood of the everyday actions required from everyday people to ensure that everything’s correctly tagged. In the short term, then, look to see the new buzz term of Web 3.0 applied to the type of application economy and interactions described by Google’s Schmidt.
TAKING THE ‘YOU’ OUT OF USER
We’ve known for a while that we’ve developed a ‘truly impressive persona creation tool’, but it’s always good when other experts agree with us. Ivanka Majic, LBi’s Head of Customer Research, talks about our persona processes and the problems they solve.
In Forrester Research’s review of European web design agencies, LBi was rated as a leader. One of the greatest strengths detailed in our report was the creation and application of personas as part of our design processes. The use of personas in design processes is well-established, but it’s still a contentious topic. Although they’re increasingly popular, personas are widely misunderstood and misused. We continue to talk to clients who have used them in the past and found the experience engaging but a bit ‘fluffy’ and ultimately not very useful. This attitude tends to be based on the assumption that personas are the output of loosely designed qualitative research without any basis in or relationship to real underlying customer data. It’s to address this view – that personas are simply vague emotional archetypes existing only on paper – that we developed the tool Forrester found so impressive. What makes an effective persona? A persona is a detailed sketch of a hypothetical person. There is no generality in a persona – a persona is not the same as a market segment. For example, a persona may be 42 years old, not a vague 30 to 45. Good personas are well written and contain consistent kinds of information, in a consistent style, at consistent levels of detail. They need to be credible,
based on evidence from primary research and easily understood by their users. The LBi persona tool is designed specifically to accommodate these requirements. It provides a content framework for writing personas and uses relevant content from other personas to provide examples of writing style and level of detail. This means that several team members can collaborate on the writing of the personas and still produce a properly coherent set. Most importantly, it provides a framework for capturing and cross-referencing primary and secondary research, so that the justification for each piece of persona content is recorded and available for later interrogation. The tool can then generate a variety of output collateral, from PowerPoint decks to posters to documents to browsable online views, with the background research included and linked. At LBi, we use these personas for three primary purposes: to help with communication, to guide the design process and to manage consensus in large, multi-stakeholder projects. From a communications perspective, it’s all about ensuring that we’re able to sit down with our clients and talk about their customers without a clash of vocabularies. No one wants to start a project by developing extensive glossaries and jargonbusters, and the best way to move a conversation beyond sterile slang is with a shared focus on
customer needs, articulated through persona development. You don’t need to know a company’s structure or acronyms in order to understand its customers’ problems and to start the process of finding solutions to them. This human focus also helps to concentrate design on customers’ emotional needs. If you use Unified Modelling Language to define use cases through a process like Rational, you’re immediately talking about system actors and components. Using persona-based design, you explore the feelings a brand wants to inspire. Of course, there are functional goals involved as well – such as ‘I want to be able to take a photograph’ – but no use case is ever going to help with the emotional goal of ‘I want to feel like a professional’. We also find that the persona process empowers the client in their sometimes daunting conversations with the design team, reducing the risk of designers designing for themselves and not for the target customer. By dealing with ‘real people’ in the form of personas, clients can talk to designers about human behaviour. Differences of opinion about design are always going to happen, but in the end we’re working to serve our clients’ customers as much as our clients themselves. By using personas who embody and represent those customers, and who have the qualities of real people, not ethnographic data slices, we’re able to address
human issues using everyday speech rather than design issues using technical language. Finally, there’s consensus. When we engage across multiple lines of business with a large organisation, credibility and accountability based on commonly accepted evidence are essential. The demonstrable rigour of our persona process is invaluable to us in achieving this . We also make sure that our tool is as available to clients as it possibly can be, on their own intranet or hosted as part of our service. Once a place is established within a client’s internal network where everyone knows they can go for answers to questions about their customers, a real change in the organisational culture and working practice is accomplished. Customer understanding becomes inculcated in a team’s culture and permeates the decision-making process. Once this change has been made, maintenance and evolution are essential. Originally we envisaged new pieces of evidence coming in every day and personas adapting accordingly, but this appealing idea turned out to be unworkable in practice. Instead, it’s important to agree an appropriate lifecycle, a function that is also built into the tool. For example, the lifecycle on a given project may be six months. Within the tool, all the collateral generated for ‘Version 1’ of a given persona or
personas has an expiry date six months after the sign-off of the initial work. The team is likely to evolve the personas during that six-month period, but the revised personas are not ‘official’ (and not published to a wider audience) until the expiry date and a formal release of the ‘Version 2’ iterations. This ensures that everyone on the project has a clear view of how stable the personas are and knows how much effort to put into learning them properly. Moreover, an explicit expiry date gives those who want changes made to personas a built-in opportunity to introduce their proposed variations . LBi’s persona tool provides structure and best-practice guidance for writing high-quality personas; the ability to cross-reference supporting evidence to ensure credibility within the client organisation; and the ability to generate high-quality, attractive collateral that communicates the personas effectively and gets them used. Above all, it fosters collaboration. In this sense, Forrester has actually got it only half right. We are indeed the proud owners of a tool to deliver a best-in-class persona experience – but so are our clients.
“Customer understanding becomes inculcated in a team’s culture and permeates the decisionmaking process.”
"A common argument from software developers who hang onto their code at all costs is that Open Source is essentially a parasitical model."
A useful MANIFESTO 1 Bi Open Source software is released under the L GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL). We chose this principally because it’s designed for libraries, and allows users to freely distribute, improve and use the code for any purpose.
2 The LBi team is committed to ongoing ownership and management of our code. We’re not offering support, but we want to fix bugs as much as anyone, and as soon as possible. So we’ll be doing exactly that.
Being useful Ben Cotton, Head of Interface Development at LBi, talks about /*useful*/, an open source initiative to improve our code and help us to participate more in the wider development community.
A few years ago we hired a contract developer to help out with some HTML. In classic contractor style he worked a little on one project, then a little on another, until we eventually parted ways. As with many contract developers, he carried with him a little bag of code. Every site he worked on contained some re-use of this code – it was the scent of his presence, like a cat marking its territory. In the particular case of this developer, the territorial pissing that defined his work was a large chunk of CSS (cascading style sheets) code headed with a small comment that – in his mind – indicated the value he thought he was bringing to the party. /*useful*/ Unfortunately this code wasn’t exactly up to the kind of quality we expect around here, and it took a while to scrub away the stains. What hasn’t been scrubbed away, though, is the running joke that this legendary developer left us with. Round our way, if you’ve got code or processes intended to make things run more efficiently but clearly doing the opposite, then you’ve got something ‘useful’. But why did this guy turn up for each of his contracting gigs with his own little bag of illadvised and downright dangerous code? Well, because we – like most of his employers – weren’t giving him anything better to work with. It made us think. Where’s our magic bag of code that can genuinely aspire to the label ‘useful’?
Where’s the polished code for all our developers to use across all client projects without the fear of something going terribly wrong? Well, for years now we’ve had our own libraries of good code to work with, but the problem has been in encouraging people to use them. The fact is that it can be hard to be useful – much harder than you might think. Who has the time to take on the job of fixing bugs in the shiny new library you’ve built? Who gets to say in which order the enhancements are prioritised and for what reasons other ideas should be abandoned? Being truly useful is something we aspire to. Collaboration is at the heart of our approach, so we thought we’d collaborate with our peers as well as colleagues and clients and reach out to the open source community, allowing all interested developers across the internet to share our code and to evolve it for their use as well as for our own. It’s a counter-intuitive thing for us to do, of course, because charging for code is one of the ways that agencies make their money, but we have to look at the bigger picture. There are a lot of great brains out there, and we haven’t managed to hire them all just yet. This way, we can look to gain immediate benefit from their skills as well as offering something of value and interest to people who might work for us in the future. On top of this, many of the innovations associated with Web 2.0 (no, we’re not massively
happy with the term either, but you know what we mean by it) have been brought to us courtesy of an open source frame of mind. It’s hard to ignore Twitter (a Ruby on Rails site), but the open source AJAX frameworks have probably had the greatest impact, changing the face of web interaction in the last couple of years The way we see it, though, turning the key on the cage and setting the code free is the easy bit. If you want to be really useful, you need to think about your ongoing attitude to your code once it’s out there in the wild. A common argument used by software developers who hang on to their expensively developed in-house code at all costs is that the open source community is essentially parasitical. For every handful of users who actually care (or who have the ability) to modify and improve the source code there are thousands who simply download and use the free software, giving nothing back. The same argument has been used by leading figures in the open source community to condemn not just individuals who download free source code, but also the companies that use it to run often multi-million-pound businesses. A recent blog post by Matt Asay, a VP of Al Fresco (one of our favourite CMS platforms at the moment) and previously one of the main architects of Novell’s move into open source, takes aim at the big Web 2.0 players: “Web 2.0 companies are in the
3 e’re also committed to changing the agency W ethos around open source, and becoming a proper part of the global development community. We will continue to make our code available for development in this way.
4 e will actually be using these libraries of code W ourselves. We’ll be ultimately responsible for them being as secure, robust and rigorously tested as possible.
5 e expect our our open source code to be of W higher quality than the code we’re still keeping in-house at the moment. After all, it should be tested and improved by a vastly greater number of people. This will set our gold standard.
habit of taking from open-source software and giving back selectively, if at all. As such, they tend to build on the free (as in price) versions of MySQL and Linux.” This idea of parasitism also extends of course to companies like ourselves. We could easily be putting our code out there knowing it’s not yet perfect and just hoping that other people will finish it for us so we can benefit from lower costs of production without any further effort. This is not the case, however. Our vision for /*useful*/ doesn’t end with putting the code out there. It’s hopefully the start of a more collaborative relationship with the wider community of developers within which we work and of better, more efficient projects for our clients. You can access our code at http:// useful.lbi.co.uk, and you can read the principles behind our initiative above:
From second life to the future life of cities John Williams, Chief Technology Officer of LBi UK, has been developing an approach to evolve the global IT infrastructure of a £1.4 billion design and engineering consultancy. Here he shares his insights on a solution centred on the adoption by industry of next-generation social, collaboration and 3D virtualisation technologies.
Talent shortages necessitate global collaboration As international markets expand and IT provides more opportunities to both retain and build upon commercial competitiveness, an associated need to reduce labour costs has resulted in the trend towards outsourcing to high-skill/low-wage locations. In the case of this project, however, cost was perceived as only a minor and relatively transient benefit. The main driver was better performance in the global war for talent. Many UK companies seeking to stay at the cutting edge of innovation are experiencing increasing difficulty in recruiting skilled staff within their home market. In this case, with a currently highly UK-centric staff profile (11,000 out of 15,000 worldwide employees), distributed working is critical to a very ambitious growth goal of 25,000 employees by 2011. This means looking outside the UK. India and China, for example, deliver 330,000 and 500,000 annual engineering graduates respectively.
The company’s Design and Engineering Solutions division already has one major ‘design centre’ based in Bangalore, but the role of this centre has historically been at the end of the project cycle and has typically involved only simple and repetitive tasks. To deliver against growth and productivity targets through the recruitment of more non-UK talent, two key needs were identified: developing a platform to enhance design centre capabilities, in order to involve them from the initial concept phase of a project, and subsequently creating a design centre model that could then be rolled out to develop an effective global network. UK construction is growing in advance of the Olympics Our research reinforced the increasing constraints on resources as demand continues to outstrip the UK’s currently limited supply of engineers and architects. The key players, including Arup, Infosys and a number of smaller firms exploring global solutions, have needs that cannot be met by the
approximately 6,500 engineers graduating from UK universities. As a specific example of this problem, the UK construction sector is expected to maintain a period of growth up to 2011 as the country gears up for the Olympics. In our case, this mapped to a goal of 10% growth in business, which would demand around 550 new graduates a year. In line with a 2005 McKinsey estimate that 51% of engineering services can be delivered remotely, this further highlighted the need offshore talent. It was clear from our stakeholder interview and analysis process that managing this shift to distributed working across the proposed global network of design centres would require effective collaboration and communication processes. A high level of willingness to consider innovative, industryleading technologies to drive differentiation in processes as well as to reduce costs was also identified. A vision for collaboration Turning to the ‘wish list’ aspirations for the development of the design centre network collected
in interviews, it was clear that the key ambition was for a rounded capability in each location rather than each centre being segmented by a particular type of work. The intention was that a UK project could be interchangeably executed in the UK or, say, India. Delivery against this vision would necessitate strong, open communication and collaboration between individual design centres and between design centres and UK offices in a ‘hub and spoke’ network. This network effect could exponentially increase the impact on business capability with ongoing growth in an ever more integrated and effective network of people, teams and locations. Benefits were also seen in the potential of introducing 24-hour global working, which could deliver three times the current daily output and – by compressing the task cycle – shorten the design process to provide a more rapid service to clients. This would, of course, increase capacity for taking on more projects while also giving smaller offices the opportunity to bid for largescale or prestigious ‘signature’ projects.
“As the construction industry gears up for the Olympics, UK graduates alone cannot meet its needs.”
A global information workplace platform It was clear that the proposed solution would need to deliver in three key areas: a unified environment for the development of deliverables, strong communication between teams and individuals to share ideas and develop concepts, and a strong knowledge-sharing capability across projects, offices, professions and departments. There was also a strong desire to be seen as innovative within the industry. One commonly expressed desire for innovation in bringing this vision to life was the use of architectural modelling packages. This was also seen as vital to the company regaining earlier competitive advantages once held through the use of 3D modelling technologies. This led to the placing of such technologies at the heart of the proposed information workplace solution. Within the workplace, the breadth of ideas is to be represented by three layers. A 3D building model is at the platform’s core, and this forms a unifying concept to ensure interoperability for both people and systems. A middle layer – representing >>
“New styles of 3D collaboration technologies are emerging – highlighted by the growth of Second Life”
Images rendered by nikid.co.uk
<< primary work activities, including design – encloses this model, and an outer layer corresponds to the broader secondary activities of collaboration, communication and knowledge sharing. The assimilation of these layers, applications and data into a single integrated platform facilitates collaboration across disciplines and offices, supports standard and consistent ways of working, facilitates the flow of information and drives innovation and knowledge sharing. A next-generation future for the construction industry The centralised and unified 3D building model at the heart of the platform would be initially created by architects during the conception phase of a project and evolved by the other disciplines throughout the project lifecycle, adding details such as structure design, lighting, heating, materials and analysis data. The standard 3D representation of data that the building model could provide would allow for design tools to be consolidated and ways of working to be aligned so that information could be shared across
offices in a consistent and meaningful way. Of course, we’re all aware that new styles of 3D collaboration technologies are emerging – as highlighted by the growth of Second Life. Although not seen as a mainstream technology for organisational collaboration, there are huge opportunities for the use of these platforms in the construction industry. It is already possible to export building models into 3D games engines such as Quake and Microsoft XNA; once imported, the virtual building models are available to be travelled through and interacted with by specialist users. To be viable for the construction industry, the engine requires customisation to support accuracy, voice and integration with building models. Functionality could allow architects and engineers who are interacting inside the virtual model to discuss options and issues by dynamically stripping and reconstructing various parts of a building to assess the impact of these changes. The benefits of using avatars and virtual environments for collaboration are that physical location is not an issue and cultural barriers disappear. Unified 3D building models are becoming an industry standard for design and engineering.
Their use will move beyond that of design and specification into other areas, including: n Construction support: Technologies such as RFID tagging embedded into building models significantly affect the approaches for scheduling, construction and fabrication, especially for complex constructions relying on intricate assemblies of bespoke components, as each component can be physically identified and mapped within the model. n Environmental impact analysis: Information regarding materials, structural design, approaches and facilities can be updated in the building model to estimate carbon as well as financial costs. n Supporting planning applications: The company GMJ is building 3D cityscapes, including London, that are currently accurate to 30cm. Using 3D building models for new projects can help primary stakeholders assess the impacts of building concepts in terms of skyline, environment and infrastructure. Other projects like Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth may also provide opportunities in the future.
Towards an integrated information workplace To optimise working processes around the central 3D model, we also examined the role of collaboration technologies as the company drives forward its technical strategy to consolidate its information management systems. At the heart of this drive is the implementation of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) in conjunction with Microsoft Office Communication Server (MOSC) – here MOSS provides the web architecture for delivering collaboration, and MOSC provides unified communications. A single platform for collaboration using SharePoint is a great step towards an Integrated Information Workplace, however, the ultimate vision, is for a unified platform which integrates collaboration with the 3D model and its associated Computer Aided Design tools. As well as searching and sharing building models this would enable architects and engineers to collaborate on models they work with without switching between tools for collaboration and workplace tools. The direction the company is currently moving in is towards a ‘unified communication’
(UC) platform that can integrate voice, data and video in order to enables users to collaborate and communicate from within business applications. For instance users will be able to begin communication with IM and switch seamlessly to voice and even progress to a web video conference and whiteboarding. Additional users can also be invited to join the session as required. With such a platform in place, uniting collaboration and conversation around core 3D models, the constraints on staffing levels through local market recruitment problems will be dissolved and 24-7 global working across a geographically distributed network of design centres will becomes a reality rather than just an aspiration.
"Sometimes they might as well be burning £50 notes rather than continuing with their campaigns."
Caroline McGuckian is Global Head of Media at LBi. Here she writes for LBiQ about the current state of the market and why a fullservice approach to clients’ business is essential to driving knowledge and insight around online media forwards.
Like most of my team, I learnt my trade working for specialist media shops. It was a fantastic learning experience, but after four years working as part of an integrated agency I wouldn’t dream of going back. I just can’t believe in the specialist model any longer. Why? Because our media team is now part of a much larger organisation, and through a multidisciplinary approach of working with specialists outside our own area we’ve gained a better perspective on the way that customers use online services. As a result we’re now able to position our work within a much wider, more informed and increasingly holistic environment. It’s a context I just don’t think we’d ever see at a specialist shop.
That’s not to say that the process of integration we’ve been going through at LBi is complete, or even proceeding perfectly to plan. But while the same old tensions still exist between teams focused on separate areas, we’re now able to resolve these through conversations around a shared water cooler or over cigarettes in a common car park. With media and creative under one roof, rather than fighting things out as two separate agencies battling for their separate shares of budget, it’s stopped being just about the money. Now it’s all about the value we can deliver. Isn’t that’s the way it’s always been supposed to work? So, even though we haven’t got everything right quite yet, this expanded focus has grown
the revenues we’re seeing from media services considerably. Of course, 50% of that success has been like falling off a log. Unless you really haven’t known what you’ve been doing, it’s been relatively easy to sustain growth in media over the last few years – but it’s the other half of our success that’s particularly interesting. Our work is now about taking our clients on a journey – working with them to educate and evolve their teams while using profitable media campaign design and management to create the funding for that innovation. For us, all of our growth in this area has been built largely on growing existing client relationships around a greater understanding of the value that a full-service approach can bring. >>
“Online media is hard work, it’s labour intensive and it’s considerably more complex than buying a TV or press campaign.”
How are we going about delivering on this? Well, we’re expecting to see much more use of online video, greater integration of mobile into brand campaigns, a rise in in-game ad placement and a much heavier use of online as a PR as well as a DR channel. For us, this wider focus on brand advertising over the next 12 to 18 months is inevitable. It’s not simply going to be about the continuing growth in the amount of consumers’ time spent online at the expense of other channels. It’s about seeing the complete picture around online customer journeys – a picture that only a full-service agency is in a position to apprehend, interpret and properly act upon. In my role as LBi’s Global Head of Media, it’s this forward-looking and education-focused approach to integrating the media offering in a full-service context that I’m here to deliver. The aim is to generate the same success we’ve had in the UK across the key hubs in the LBi network, starting initially with New York and Germany. As I say, it’s by no means perfect at the moment, but it’s a model that’s working and which we believe we can fine-tune and replicate as long as we continue to concentrate on the bigger picture and push ourselves and our clients towards ever-increasing bravery in our joint commitment to the channel.
For example, earlier this year, by calling on complementary expertise outside of my own team I was able to tell a client to cancel his traditional high spend on search through Google. The bounce rate from his landing pages was so high that, quite frankly, he might as well have been burning £50 notes rather than continuing the campaign. With a portion of that budget redirected into an examination of the on-site problems responsible for this level of bounce against search-driven traffic, we were able to increase real success, not just the level of clicks to the site. It was one of the most personally satisfying moments of my career to date, and one that could only have come from access to skills outside of my own team. Had I still been with a specialist, my view would have been blinkered. We’re also changing the way that we engage with our clients. We’re no longer taking our revenues from a fixed percentage of spend. Instead, we’re increasingly working – like the rest of the business – on a more strategic level as consultants on a day-based rate. Without our income being tied to spend, we’re encouraged to focus on developing the most creative and cost-effective campaigns for our clients rather than just being concerned with raising budgets. It’s a more honest way in which to work, and one in which everybody wins. Still, even with the effectiveness and reach of online media long established in the marketing mix, we still have a great deal of work to do to highlight true return on investment in the way
that online integrates with the wider picture of consumers’ advertising consumption. When it comes to pushing this increasingly ROI-focused role of online media forwards, everyone – agents and clients both – can be a little cowardly. It would be easy for me to write this, trotting out the market stats and repeating the truism that clients should be spending more online because that’s where their customers are, but the truth is – whatever anyone tells you – online is a difficult medium to buy for and innovation doesn’t come easily. It’s hard work, it’s labour-intensive and it’s considerably more complex than buying a TV or press campaign. It’s also invariably fraught with technical challenges and, without the sophisticated measurement and reporting structures of other media, we – as an industry – aren’t making it easy on ourselves. As a result, clients who understand buying Gross Rating Points or TV hours, the established metrics, find it hard to get a handle on the movement and impact of their budgets online. Nevertheless, online is still the most exciting of all media channels. Today we’re all still very much focused – inevitably – on search, but we’re starting to see more diversification in where spend can be most effectively directed. It’s about moving to a next stage of online understanding, and much of this is about brands generating demand rather than simply capitalising on it through direct response and search channels.
THE WRAP WHAT WE’VE BEEN READING, SITES WE’VE CHECKED OUT, OUR TAKE ON THE THINGS WE’VE FOUND INTERESTING AND ALL THE OTHER STUFF THAT DIDN’T FIT IN UNTIL NOW.
REVIEW NEW RULES OF MARKETING & PR
By MARK PENN
By DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT
Mark Penn’s work in identifying and targeting the ‘soccer mom’ niche while working as a pollster for the Clinton Campaign in 1996 led the New York Times to call him the “guru of small things”. He’s now doing the same pollster job for Hillary Clinton and advising Gordon Brown.
“I worry I’ve become one of Penn’s ‘Impressionable Elites.”
Hillary and Gordon should find themselves entertained and engaged by Penn. Microtrends – 75 brief essays on emerging social niches in America – has a way with a well-turned phrase and is full of good, crunchy statistics. Who knew that one per cent of Californians aged between 16-22 saw themselves as military snipers within 10 years? Or that knitting is one of the fastest growing activities among the MySpace generation? There is a telling moment, though, in the chapter on ‘Impressionable Elites’, in which Penn takes the view that once Americans begin to earn over $100,000, they start to care more about the personalities of political candidates than about their strategy and policies. Any level of real involvement in issues is left to those of the lower social strata. The Impressionable Elites, Penn believes, are the most easily spun by the kind of charm and effortless sense of knowledge in which he specialises, and this book is clearly targeted at them. I now worry I’ve become one, because the further into the book I read, the more conversational gems I file away for later use and the more I feel complicit in the book’s success. Much of its quotable value comes not from the statistics themselves, but from Penn’s take on the likely causes and effects of these niche attitudes. But despite Penn’s dedication to deep quantitative research (the book has 38 pages of references), there often seems to be something deeply subjective in the theories underpinning his trends. This sits uneasily with a view of truth as a result of ever more detailed and objective polling. For example, a rise in the number of left-handed people is interesting
and it may possibly be down to more liberal attitudes in parenting. It seems improbable, however, that this ‘truth’ heralds the coming of military leaders in the mould of the left-handed Charlemagne or Napoleon. There is also a sense of Penn working his dayjob as cheerleader for the Clinton nomination. This results in a number of visions of an America where, in a cliché that the Clinton campaign hasn’t shied away from, ‘children are the future’. This vision of an obviously conservative America is also felt in the handful of European trends that are addressed. The large number of UK couples ‘Living Apart Together’ is, to Penn, an unconventional approach to marriage and family values. He then suggests problems for the property market due to “a literal doubling in the amount of housing stock required”. Or take Italy – 82 per cent of 18- to 30-year-old men are ‘Mammonis’ (mummy’s boys), still living with their mothers. These are highlighted as a potential cause of depression or recession “as China takes over Italy’s manufacturing jobs”. Microtrends is deeply US-centric with a hint of neo-con xenophobia. It’s also possibly too glib in some of its conclusions. Should you read it? That depends on whether or not you’re among the impressionable elite. If you are in that niche, the odds are – so good is Penn at his job and so engaging is his spin – that you’ll find a lot to enjoy and recycle over dinner. You’ll also be able to nod sagely should the Prime Minister start talking of the “triumph of the Starbucks economy over the Ford economy”.
The premise of The New Rules of Advertising and PR is simple, though hardly original: the internet has changed everything around what we call marketing and there is now an imperative do things differently to how they used to be done in the ‘old economy’. What follows is a series of jams around this theme, played for practicality and the appearance of genuine value to the reader, but actually coming on pretty repetitive. It’s nothing new. You can ignore the ‘rules’ tag of the title, too. There are a few lists that contrast the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ but there’s nothing rigorous, regulatory or systematic going on with them. Most of the ‘rules’ presented would be better classified as ‘observations’ and the recommendations they prompt from the author are a mixture of common sense and disingenuous pseudo-insider insights. “Remember,” imparts David Meerman Scott, “the best thing about new rules is that your competitors probably don’t know about them yet!” The anecdotal ‘old rules’ of marketing past are the least contentious part of the book’s list-heavy content, but it’s still a narrative where the past is broken down to a bite-sized level of detail. It’s by no means a bad thing, until you encounter the glib summaries of the ‘old ways’ which take this simplification to the level of reconstituted baby food: “Advertising relied on interrupting people to get them to pay attention to a message… It was more important for the ad agency to win… awards than for the client to win new customers.” For a book that claims to define a set of professional activities it’s a crass line to push on a presumed readership of marketing professionals, and one that possibly betrays a targeting of the gullible who want to believe that a single book could have the potential to put them ahead of the rest of the digital pack. There are, nevertheless, moments when DMS writes clearly about aspects of the industry he obviously cares deeply about. His points on writing effectively for
buyers are particularly well made. “Your buyers want to know what specific problem your product solves and they want proof that it works – in plain language… start with your buyers, not your product.” And the excellent gobbledygook section which lists the most overused and meaningless terms in corporate marketing (‘leading’, ‘we’re excited about’, ’a wide range of…’, ‘unparalleled’ and ‘unsurpassed’) should be pinned to the wall of all marketing departments. What’s lacking, though, is anything remotely forward looking. If you really are hoping to find the codified rules of new techniques so rarified that your competitors don’t even know to seek them out, you won’t find them here. The closest DMS comes to presenting a valid future is his repeated riffing on placing a value on content and in looking to publishing as an activity model from which marketers could learn valuable lessons. There is, however a lack of meaningful follow through here – the mantra ‘Think like a publisher’ is rolled out repeatedly but he never does more than touch the surface of what that might (and should) mean. This book works as a very basic checklist. For a grown-up audience, the brief lucid intervals about publishing models are interesting enough as pointers towards more serious thinking about an important emergent trend. For students, or those new to the field, the early sections on the ‘old rules’ are possibly a useful guide to how things were done in the days before the Web. The truth is that this book is less a guide for the professional who takes their work seriously and more an example of a self-help book targeted at those who feel out of their depth in a world they haven’t paid appropriate attention to. As such, it ingratiates itself with this audience by flattering their knowledge of the most basic principles of marketing 101 and – worse – by holding out to them the hope that the simple acts of buying and reading this book will guarantee their survival. They won’t.
“A self-help book targeted at those who feel out of their depth in a world they know they haven’t paid attention to.”
REVIEW EVERYTHING IS MISCELLANEOUS
By Marty Neumeier
By DAVID WEINBERGER
Warren Hutchinson, Experience Director at LBi, follows ‘the road less zigged’ in search of brand propositions that are both unique and defensible.
“Process should aspire to a state like that of jazz.”
In his previous book, 2005’s The Brand Gap, Neumeier discussed five areas of focus essential to bringing business strategy into line with customer experience. Now, in Zag! The Number One Strategy of High Performance Brands, he examines differentiation – the most critical of these – in detail. Using the same clear, easily digestible ‘whiteboard’ style of presentation as its predecessor, Zag! walks through a 17-step process to for achieving the ‘true’ differentiation Neumeier advocates. This isn’t simply ‘traditional’ differentiation gained through doing something faster, cheaper or better than competitors; rather, it’s about the creation of services that are different, distinctive and truly unique. When everyone else is ‘zigging’, that’s when you should ‘zag’ (or so the theory has it). Each of Neumeier’s steps is presented as questions with accompanying exercises intended to help you answer them. For example, the issue of ensuring ongoing survival in an ever-more disruptive landscape is accompanied by the suggestion that you write your own brand’s obituary. But is such an approach destined to be a fixture of the future for brand and design companies, or is it simply wellpresented theory and contemporary rhetoric? Compared to the processes outlined in many earlier works on brand strategy, the road to zagging is decidedly more freeform. It’s a process that Neumeier clearly believes should aspire to a state like that of jazz – allowing for improvisation and unorthodox modes of thinking. As with jazz, were such a framework to tolerate any fixed rules, then the first of these would be that appropriate customisation is a mandatory. When we first looked at adapting Neumeier’s approach in our own work, it was in this way that we set about preparing for our first client sessions: breaking down the reference questions into the most suitable set for our situation, and expanding on the recommended exercises
in the areas that proved most productive and thoughtprovoking. For example, don’t stop at writing your own obituary, develop your elevator pitch and create your own packaging where the simple label sums up your unique benefits. Gear everything towards crystallising and interrogating the factors that will drive genuine ongoing innovation and sustain competitiveness through distinction. This is by no means a path of least resistance. It requires commitment and there is a great deal of homework to be done. If you were considering incorporating Neumeier’s approaches in to your own practices, I’d strongly advise your team take a dry run at the whole process before beginning formal workshopping. As for how long the process will take, even with an internal dry run, I’d suggest setting aside three days to work through your exercises in client workshops. It’s certainly intense and challenging, but we found the rewards easily outweighed the pain of the challenges and led us towards a solution that would never have been arrived at through a standard project approach. Zagging will by no means immediately appeal to everyone, particularly the risk-averse. However, as the innovation imperative becomes more pervasive in the market, it’s an approach we expect to see demanded more in the future, and for which willingness helps define the type of projects that stretch and excite both agency and client teams. It’s also essential for these teams to be brave enough to experiment with approaches that take them outside the ‘business as usual’ comfort zone. If you aspire to working on innovative projects, you really need to take your own medicine and look at how you approach your own design thinking and processes. Zag! provides an excellent starting point with strong ideas clearly expressed. Be brave – read it, try it and see if it’s for you.
Humans have always felt the need to structure and classify knowledge; but what if there is no natural order? What if ‘meaning’ is entirely arbitrary and only exists on demand when a person or group of people looking for it find or assemble it, or something that ‘looks’ like it? This is a weighty question. David Weinberger – sometime philosopher and co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto – bravely attempts to explain and resolve it in 230 breezily written pages that address the ways in which the nature of information changes when it moves from physical representation to digital. This is always going to be a challenge. At least Weinberger doesn’t start with the heavy stuff. Everything Is Miscellaneous begins in a shop, looking at how, in a prototypical retail environment, everything in the store will be neatly ordered – forced as it is by the laws of the physical universe to exist in one place at one time. But this no longer cuts it in the digital world. ‘Everything’ is now free from the need to exist in one time and space. As a result, the knowledge structures that have traditionally ordered information as if it were physical – rather than just relating to physical things – are redundant. And so, more importantly, are associated concepts of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Wikipedia, for example, doesn’t work by being right – it works by agreement. When editors stop editing, agreement has been reached and the resulting entry stands as a consensual result. To ask whether this result is ‘true’ or not is to ask the wrong question. The important thing is that stasis has been achieved, indicating harmony. The implications, if you can (be bothered to) get your mind around this, are immense. A single point of authority disappears. Relevance becomes a matter of opinion. ‘Truth’, if it can be said to exist at all any longer, is consensual rather than absolute. Information is naturally unstructured, defiant of categorisation and always relative to the query that defines it.
There are lots of troubling things about this idea. What part narrative plays in a world of endlessly forming and reforming bits and bytes is not clear. Human evolution has not equipped us to think in non-sequential and timeless ways. How decisions are reached in a zero-authority environment is a problem. Does ‘truth’ come down to who can shout the loudest? Is might right? In the absence of a trusted leader and decision maker, it could well be. If humans could live amicably without authority in a purely relative world, ubiquitous and endless miscellany would be very attractive. But it’s not how human beings work, it’s how databases work, and Weinberger’s passionate thesis looks perilously anarchic in ‘the real world’ – the first and second order information world in which human beings evolved and for which millions of years of adaptation have fitted us. How the book itself should be classified is also a problem. Is it a business guide to the commercial opportunities of metadata, or a philosophical treatise on information? The commentary on the commercial benefits of third-order data management and presentation is interesting and relevant to business – the book ends, as it begins, in a shop. But the bulk of Everything is Miscellaneous deals with “the dialectic of simplicity and complexity”. Complexity gets the upper hand here, and it doesn’t let go. Should you read Everything Is Miscellaneous? It’s a valuable reference point for anyone who works in the information economy. There are some eloquent and well-researched passages on the benefits and defects of various historical systems for those fascinated by hierarchy and taxonomy. However, unless you have an existing interest in these matters, Everything Is Miscellaneous is an uncomfortable mixture of chatty examples and existential profundity, and probably best avoided.
“Weinberger’s thesis looks perilously anarchic in ‘the real world’.”
REVIEW THE CULT OF THE AMATEUR BY ANDREW KEEN
Andrew Keen wears his heart on his sleeve and his chip on his shoulder. In his polemic The Cult of the Amateur he has abandoned his position as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur (he founded Audiocafe.com in 1995) – in which he “peddled the original internet dream”, “seduced investors” and “almost became rich” – for the moral high ground from which he rails against Web 2.0 utopianism.
“When the infrastructure’s gone, it’s gone for good.”
Keen makes two core arguments: that the proliferation of freely available, peer-to-peer entertainment threatens the supporting infrastructure for creative professionals and the long-term availability of (expensive) high-quality creative work for society to enjoy, and that the symmetry of digital networks is making (expensive) expertise and journalistic integrity untenable. He reiterates the points that indiscriminate freedom of communication encourages addictions (to gambling, pornography, and to the internet itself) and fraud (phishing, identity theft), and so society is doomed. Yet, such an assertion has no place in this book. Keen’s writing is impassioned and erudite, if not always ingenuous. He illustrates his argument about the threat to creative professions using the music, film and book publishing industries. He ranges from detailed, emotive case studies – dramatising the death of Tower Records in a very personal account – to eclectic remarks by commentators and to economic data. The falling investment budgets of traditional media companies are telling: while there is a back-catalogue to exploit and new public to consume it, the aggregators are in clover. Ultimately, the effect of falling investments – the dismantling of the support infrastructure for creative professionals – is cushioned. The total revenues of artists outside that infrastructure are pitiful. Keen argues that when the infrastructure has gone, it’s gone for good; and that we are so caught up in the new ‘kleptocracy’ that we won’t notice until it’s too late. Keen’s argument about truth, integrity and expertise also has an economic foundation. He charts the decline of newspapers (focusing on California) as their ad revenue bleeds away to, among others, the free
Craigslist. That the New York Times makes $1.5 billion of revenue on 2.7 million readers of the paper, but only $200m of revenue on 40 million readers of the (free) online edition is a stark fact. He vilifies Wikipedia for misinformation, invoking colourful examples such as the topical story of Wikipedia’s entry on global warming which proudly declares itself to be a consensus of the largely anonymous ‘editors’. He points at examples of ‘democratic’ services like Digg and YouTube being manipulated by people with an agenda. He argues that the lines between information, entertainment and marketing are blurring to the point where it’s impossible for many people to tell them apart. In the short term, that’s a recipe for the gullible to be hoodwinked. In the long term, it requires all of us to be ‘amateur critics’. Ten years ago, Esther Dyson wrote in Release 2.0: A design for Living in the Digital Age that: “[T]he greatest structural impact of the Net is decentralization; things and people no longer depend on a centre to be connected. People often confuse that with democracy, but democracy is where the majority rules (…), whereas decentralization is where the masses separate into small groups.” Ease of finding people who share your opinion is not a substitute for authority. In the vein of many zeitgeisty books, Keen ends with a slim solutions chapter. He points to Citizendium and Joost as beacons of hope for truth and professional entertainment. Disappointingly, the rest of the chapter covers his tangential moral topic, urging restraint, regulation and better parenting. In 2004, Tim O’Reilly said that ‘noble amateurs’ would be responsible for ending the ‘dictatorship of expertise’. Keen might, he says, have replied, “Instead of a dictatorship of experts, we’ll have a dictatorship of idiots”. In spite of his book exhibiting many of the qualities he despises, his core arguments are thought-provoking, making this short book a worthwhile read. Lorenzo Wood
Fifteen minutes with you They’re typically Flash-heavy, have a fondness for video and do well at awards shows. But is the new breed of immersive ‘brand experiences’ delivering a return on the time investment asked of their users? We’re spending 15 minutes with two of the new breed, so you don’t have to. This time, it’s all about milk and alcohol.
Stellaartois.com Stella is proud of this one, so much so that there’s a separate blog celebrating the ‘cinematic’ glory and achievement of their brand and design teams. And it is an achievement: if you’re looking for a site that delivers on the potential broadband has for the kind of rich, video-led experience once only associated with narrative point and click-PC games of the last decade, then this is one for you. If you’re looking for actual game-play though (and the test here is to ask the question, “Were this in an arcade, would I give it my change?”), then you’re going to be disappointed. While some of the richest, finely crafted video and animation content you’ll see this year is deployed to create a narrative based in Stella’s origin year of 1366, game-play or real interaction isn’t really where this is at. Rather, a series of beautifully realised vignettes and games take the user to an unlikely 14th century Belgium, where the people still cling to primitive polytheism, the world is flat and, sadly, there’s no hint of the humour that distinguishes the brand’s TV work. After 15 minutes? Well, unless you’re here just to admire the technical skill and art direction that has gone into the work, you’ll probably be leaving, never to return and still clinging to your own primitive belief that Stella – rather than being a brew of magic and tradition - is fuel for beating your spouse on a Saturday night.
Milkmatters.co.uk Created for Cravendale (their milk is filtered which, apparently, improves the taste) the Milk Matters site takes on the look and feel of their muchloved TV spots from earlier this year, directed by cult Belgian stop-motion animation directors Pic Pic André. What does this mean for the site? Well, after a lengthy Flash load-time (lightened a little by the opportunity to make an online chicken dance) the central feature is the chance to take on the character of one of the adverts’ heroes – the pirate seems to have the greatest number of fan groups on Facebook, though the cow comes close. You can then interact with the landscape and characters. There’s a viral element added through the ability to record, save and send a pseudo stop-motion film of your activities to friends, who can also interact on the site in real-time with you. This opportunity to interact in a free-form manner, rather than passively enduring a linear story line, is compelling, and it’s 15 minutes that effectively engages with the brand. Compared to Stella, the sense of discovery is notably unaccompanied by didacticism. Odds are, you’ll return to the site. So that’ll be one for milk, then.
HE WHO LIVES MORE LIFE THAN ONE
Hobo Signs for Techno Tribes
To Second Life – a place LBiQ visits more frequently than our dentist, but less often than our GP. We’re healthy real-world types, and it’s not really our thing.
So, we’re following the US media backlash with interest. Time Magazine, originally a Second Life booster, has placed the metaverse in its high profile list of ‘Five Sites to Avoid.’ On top of this, recent months have seen the shutters go down on the in-world branch of American Apparel and an increasing number of ‘griefing’ attacks on real-world brands within the grid. Then we’ve got that report from the Yankee Group. Immediately rebutted by Linden Labs, with the claim that the consultants’ maths skills would shame a 10 year old, the “Wither Second Life?” report claims that average time in-world per user since October 2006 has fallen to just 12 minutes a month. This, the report’s authors claim (rather simplistically, we reckon) is down to the ‘tethered’ PC client-based nature of access to the grid, rather than through the browser – coming anyway through MoveableLife – or the mobile phone (which, right now, sounds like madness). Linden Labs claims that the actual numbers show an average monthly in-world time of nearly 24 hours. It’s obviously a very different picture, but the brands are clearly retrenching from their own, often deserted, islands. What does LBiQ think? We think that Second Life is paying the inevitable price of being a pioneer and of attempting to offer all things to all people. This broad virtual church encompasses such diverse congregations as the fans of furry/cosplay sex, real-world retailers and ordinary punters drawn in by the hype as well as corporates looking to dress their press launches up in the latest zeit-guise of digital cool. Conflict is inevitable.
We think it’s useful to look at the lateral phenomenon of social-networking services alongside the whole virtual environments debate. Here we’re similarly moving from global ‘all things for everyone’ platforms to more focused niche communities: from the big players such as MiGente, BlackPlanet or Asmallworld (to which our invite is presumably lost in the e-post), to the smaller ‘micro-networks’ enabled by providers such as Ning. When Gartner – pushing an infinitely less pessimistic point of view than that of the Yankee Group – predicts that, within five years, 80 per cent of internet users will have a virtual avatar it’s in more niche, browser accessible worlds that we think we’ll find them playing. Of course, this doesn’t mean that brands who’ve invested in Second Life to this date have lost out. They’ve gained vital early experience and many of those still investing – Vodafone’s ‘Inside Out’ initiative is a favourite of ours – are learning lessons that will be easily applied in the niche environments to come. Smart organisations such as Omnicom are also preparing themselves for this ‘avatar age’ – regardless of whether it occurs on the Linden Grid or not – through acquisition of virtual modelling and development skills. So, we won’t probably be back in Second Life in the near future, and nor will many of the brands teleporting out now, but it doesn’t mean that we won’t all be seen wiser, and with our specific needs more capably catered for, in new virtual worlds by 2012.
This airtime is brought to you by… There’s been lots of talk lately about new adsupported Mobile Virtual Network Operator, Blyk. Launched in October, 16- to 24-year-olds are already receiving six SMS/MMS ads a day from brands including Coca-Cola and L’Oréal, in exchange for free texts and airtime. Only, Blyk aren’t calling these messages adverts - they’re calling it ‘giving you stuff you like’.
At the end of August, a billboard advertising the DVD release of pot-boiling British zombie movie 28 Weeks Later appeared in London’s borough of Shoreditch. Unusually for the genre, there was no strapline, no star-billing and no blown-up stills or digitally enhanced cleavage – simply a large and striking QR code accompanied by a URL. Elsewhere in the UK, the publishing company EMAP placed QR codes in metal magazine Kerrang last year, while a recent remix of the Pet Shop Boys’ anti-ID card anthem Integral presents a video laced with codes, all linking to articles providing context on the ID card debate. We’ve even seen one ‘in the wild’ – a sticker on a phone box decoding to the (still obscure to us) number 0107010644301. What all these executions have in common is exclusivity. Shoreditch is still an enclave of perceived post-Nathan Barley techno-cool; metal fans will always embrace an outsider status, and concealing a layer of hidden information in a video makes an instant club out of those who get it. Soon QR will be common, from business cards to food packaging. The software will even come as standard on more phones than just high-end players like the Nokia N95. Till then, QR codes have a brief potential for guerilla marketing, we think. They’re like hobo signs – messages hiding in plain sight for those in the know. So, look out for low-budget black-and-white sticker campaigns hitting the likes of bus shelters, parking meters and estate agents’ boards in areas where the young and techno-literate congregate.
We like Blyk. We like the ex-Nokia team on board and we love their permissionplus-preference (‘open marketing’) model. We also love the warm and fuzzy way they’re going about a YouTube strategy, allowing members of the target audience to play with and redesign their logo and identity because they’re not willing to pretend they know what the audience will find cool. Still, it’s easy to talk about how innovative, disruptive, revolutionary (and so on) this service is, and to respect the thinking that’s gone into designing the ad interactions, but we’re holding on judgment till we can talk to users. The kind of questions on our mind? Ads are received at a regular time each day. Score one for ensuring familiarity, but doesn’t that just make them easier to ignore? We’re unaware of any mechanic that insists on interaction rather than just receipt to keep the free minutes flowing. Then there’s the whole issue of a student audience and their attitude to being bought off by brands. Possibly there’s a new generation that has never read Naomi Klein or listened to Bill Hicks, but we doubt it. Nor is the model as new and original as you might be led to think. Virgin Mobile USA’s Sugar Mama has been working a similar mechanic in the States since last year. “Give us a minute of your time, and we’ll give you a minute of airtime” is the mantra. The same approach of waiting, observing and learning from whatever happens with Blyk is also being followed by ExtremeMob, owned by youth/niche TV group Extreme who plan to launch a similar under-24s service in the UK. Time will tell if either succeeds in cannibalising the current dominance of the pay-as-you-go networks in the youth market, but if one does, it’s likely to be a very gradual change allowing the networks to re-think their own price plans in line with any changes.
LBiQ is talking jargon 2.0
LBiQ is following the money Social networking remains a key focus of Web 2.0 investment, but where exactly is the money going?
Thanks to Microsoft’s purchase of 1.6 per cent of its operations, Facebook is now valued at $15 billion (around 1,000 times higher than its estimated annual advertising revenues). Elsewhere, the last quarter has seen the launch of Google’s OpenSocial platform, designed to create beyond-the-Facebook opportunities for application developers. Then there’s the $44 million raised in July by ‘anyone can build an SNS’ company, Ning. It’s clear that many investors are still prepared to bet heavily on the social web, but what trends are bringing in the money? The application economy OpenSocial is all about the revenue opportunities for third party application developers. Already attracting the cash in this economy are the likes of video chat application Tokbox, raising $4 million through Sequoia Capital in October. Their wider competition may include the likes of Skype but their SNS focus stands out – as does their partnership with the excellent (and also Sequoia-funded) Meebo. Meanwhile, Bay Partners – already investors in Flash-based invite-only SNS Wallop – have declared Facebook a ‘social operating system’ and set up a dedicated application investment team called AppFactory in response to this ‘SOS’.
Knowing your niche Ning’s all about niche – allowing any social group, however small, to set up their own network. On a more macro scale, there are the race- and religion-based services out there, including MiGente, AsianAvenue and Faithbase. Hottest new niche? Baby-boomers. Eons.com – founded by Jeff Taylor of recruitment giant Monster.com – still has the best part of $20 million to burn and is refocusing its 50+ offering from lifestyle content to SNS. A similar approach is being pushed in the UK by Saga Zone. But the most unlikely competitive niche has to be pets. A number of angel and privately funded properties, including Dogster and UnitedDogs, are now fighting for an online pets market last sighted in business plans just before the crash of 2000. Genetic networking Back in May, 23andme.com attracted a lot of attention – less for their business model and more for being the company co-founded by Sergey Brin’s wife and funded from her husband’s Google-coffers to the tune of $3.9 million. 23andme, named for the 23 pairs of chromosomes that carry human DNA, is in the personal genetics business. Or, to look more closely at their press releases, in the ‘analysing your genetic material and connecting you to other people through this’ business. Mrs. Google’s company isn’t the only player in the field. The huge online genealogy business is also looking to take advantage of SNS tech. At the low end there’s Geni, led by the ex-COO of PayPal. At the high end, Spectrum Equity Investors has recently placed $300 million into the Generations Network, owners of Ancestry.com who’ve just begun a process of DNA testing their three billion records.
“Locking Down the Elephant” Defintion: To invite free and open online discussion, only to close this down when the conversation takes an unwelcome turn.
Origin and usage: In the brave new world of the Web 2.0 agency, there’s probably a discussion you’re tired of having. “Should we encourage our customers to talk about our brand and services?” “How heavily should I moderate the conversation?” Fascinating for sure, but there are only so many times you can cover the same old pros and cons. It’s also a rare case where anyone’s going to shout for throwing the forum doors wide open, so the inevitable spectre of heavy-handed moderation sits like an elephant in the corner of the room. But we’d like to see that elephant take a hefty step centre stage. In the summer of 2006, US satirist Stephen Colbert observed that Wikipedia’s approach to information had led to a new state of ‘Wikiality’ – one in which reality is simply the most commonly agreed-on version of the facts.
To celebrate this shift from truth to ‘truthiness’, Colbert suggested that his viewers modify Wikipedia to enshrine as ‘fact’ the ‘truth’ that Africa’s elephant population had trebled over the last decade. Wikipedia’s reaction? To ‘lock down’ their elephant entry, a restriction typically placed on those entries covering the most contentious of subjects. Was ‘locking down the elephant’ the right thing to do? Probably. Or would the increased public focus have resulted in the entry becoming more properly ‘factual’ over time? Possibly, though as we go to press, the page remains locked. Could its detail be more accurate? Maybe. But will directing the conversation in your next meeting so that all discussions of forum moderation are couched in comically elephantine terms enlighten the everyday tedium of your life? Almost certainly.
YOUNG WOMAN, tall and skinny, carrying a copy of Tatler: What are you all queuing for?
October 26th 2007
MAN IN QUEUE: it's for the Apple store. It's a new product launch.
PLACE Apple Store, Regent Street
It's for Leopard. Er, Apple's new operating system?
Right... What does that mean?
Er, well, you know Vista? This is like Apple's version.
[Smiles with relief] Oh right. So it's better?
YW: Oh, right. I thought it must have been some supermodel, you know, because of all these men... [gestures, weakly]
OK, well [smiles] enjoy your operating system.
ÂŠ LBiQ 2008. LBi Ltd is registered in England and Wales, the registered number and address are 03080409, 1 Naoroji Street, London, UK WC1X 0JD. Any unauthorised copying, disclosure or distribution of this material is strictly forbidden.