- So, when some kind of themes or patterns started falling out of the last couple of posts, I had the incredibly stupid idea that I could decide a theme for the next Unordered. Even more stupidly, I thought I could make this next one somehow related to work, pulling this a step closer toward being some kind of work-related blog thing… If you were wondering 1 why there was a bit of a longer gap between posts, well, now you know. Its because I was foolishly trying to push it into Q2 of the procrastinators matrix, which is a very silly place for a procrastinator like me to put anything they actually intend to get done.
- Nevertheless, lets kick off with something from the world of advertising; an advert for Bodyform that has blood in it. My cynical side immediately pulled out this article on how empowerment became something for women to buy, except I think this is about something more, in that its trying to make the brand into something that works with periods instead of pretending that the menstrual cycle is nothing more impactful than a bit of a mess in your pants once every four weeks. (I remember when I was younger finding it really weird how sanitary products adverts seemed so much like nappy adverts, but with grown women instead of babies. I'm pretty sure that had a not-insignificant impact on my understanding of how womens' bodies work, given that I think my school did the thing where the boys don't sit in the lessons where they teach girls about how their bodies work – at least, I don't recall that particular lesson…) Which seems like good work being done by advertising people. Hooray.
- Meanwhile, the media industry is currently holding its collective breath as it awaits a report from ANA/K2/Ebiquity 2 about 'non transparency' around how agencies are spending their clients money – which seems to revolve around agencies getting rebates and not passing them back to their clients. First off3, big disclaimer;4 I do work in a media agency, but in Research. As I don't work on the buying side, I'm about three steps removed from the world of auditors, so I'm happy to talk about this precisely because I'm way out of my depth and don't really understand it. And also, the report is all about the US, where the practice around rebates is apparently completely different to Europe, and I don't really understand the practice around rebates in Europe either. BUT… it feels like an issue that is just the latest wave of "digital is changing everything and it makes me scared" to hit the industry. The way media used to work was pretty simple; advertiser wanted to put adverts in front of an audience. They defined that audience using demographics - which are a very good tool for describing a big group of people5 – and a media agency bought the spaces around the stuff that audience was looking at; the breaks around the TV they were watching, the spaces around the articles they were reading and so on. If, as a media owner, you wanted to sell advertising, you needed scale because that meant having reach and being an important part of a media plan that got the broadest reach of the target audience as cost-effectively as possible. Turns out though, in a digital world that all gets flipped upside down and inside out because a) without all the hassle of limited airwaves/pages/shelf space there isn't really a limit on how big a media owner can scale (see: Google, Facebook) so combining different publishers is less of an issue than it once was, and b) when your media doesn't involve 'broadcast' technology like radio broadcasts or printing presses, but involves creating every single page on the fly for every single reader (with a different advert on that page if you like), and technology can stop you showing the same advert to the same 'person' 6 twice, "reach" turns into a totally different kind of game.7 Because now, you don't buy "an audience" as one big clump of people who see the thing that you made (think: readers of a particular issue of a newspaper, viewers of a particular channel at a particular time, people who listen to a particular radio station in the car on the way to work) who you know are likely to be your good customers because you've done your audience research, because you can use a combination of data and technology to just pick off the people who you think are likely to be your good customers from all kinds of different places on the internet without really caring about where they happen to be when they see those adverts. (ie. those adverts you keep on seeing for the thing you were thinking about buying on a website that time.) Back then, a handful of publishers owned the audience, packaged them up and sold them as profitably as possible.
Now, the "audience" is global, there are millions of publishers - far too many for any individual to properly keep track of, and the audience relationship (as far as advertisers are concerned) is run by the data and technology side of things. But the data costs money, the technology costs money, the people who properly understand how it all fits together and make it all work properly cost money – so while the cost of the actual media (that is, the money that goes to the publisher) is doing what you would expect it to do when supply is virtually infinite and drops like a stone, so the costs of running a profitable agency take up a bigger and bigger slice of what the advertiser is actually spending.
Now, all of this is quite probably going to look stupid in the light of the actual report, when I have little doubt that some terrible things are going to get uncovered and spread around the media industry's trade press, and people are going to think that the worst things that are being done in the US are also being done as a matter of course in the UK, which presumably is good for business for the companies who happen to be writing the report in the first place.7
My main point here is that in 9 years in "digital" in a big UK media agency group, I haven't seen anything that strikes me as being bad practice (silly- sure, but bad- no.) In fact, from what I've seen it looks much more like the other way around; 9 years ago, I saw my digital buying colleagues being taken out for ski trips, big parties and other kinds of media jollies that just don't seem to happen very much any more because post-recession, nobody is paying for that kind of thing. Even the little freebies (branded Moleskine notebooks, bags, memory sticks etc.) seem to have dried up these days…
But (and this is a massive but), if you are doing a good job of measuring what your advertising is doing instead of just measuring your advertising, then this shouldn't really be an issue because you should be happy that you're getting your money's worth.
- Sorry that was a bit long, even with all the footnotes.
- Also, I'm kind of sorry about the footnotes. I can't figure out if they are a nice way to make things skimmable if you're in that kind of mindset while also being able to throw in the extra bits that don't really need to be in there, or just obnoxious obstacles that get in the way of reading some words. Feedback welcome...
- Remember that point about scale? Well, it seems that Facebook is going to sell adverts to non-Facebook users. One and a half billion users – which is more than even the potential audience any publisher has ever had in the history of publishing, and they want to scale up… I don't really understand this, to be honest. Facebook have a very good business involving social, mobile and video. This feels like a distraction more than anything else.
- Facebook video views "count" after 3 seconds. Surprised? Well, this shouldn't really come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention, and is one of the reasons Facebook video is (or at least, can be) very cheap when compared to the kind of "view" that gets counted after a longer period of time (eg. YouTube skippable video ads, which tend not to be watched in silence the way Facebook videos are.) I'm not Facebook's biggest fan, but I don't really see a problem with this one; one point six billion people should understand the implications of a video in your newsfeed and how vastly different the context is from a video on YouTube, or a broadcaster app, or a video-centric context/environment, or a publisher site, or pretty much anything other than Facebook (or Twitter, I guess.). Also, Facebook is a biddable platform; you don't pay a penny more than you think its worth, and if advertisers are measuring the outcomes instead of just counting impressions and reach (not to mention putting decent videos on Facebook that are relevant to the context), then they should have some idea if it was worth it or not, but there is a bit of tension here between how well Facebook video works when the video is something you have already seen and the first 3 seconds refreshes it in your memory verus the idea that TV adverts should be on the internet instead of on television, which I think is much more interesting.
Speaking of tension around Facebook and videos, this is a good appeal to Facebook to be doing a better job of policing stolen videos. Not, I should clarify, "stolen" in the sense of celebrity sex tapes being nicked from hacked phones, but "stolen" in the far less dramatic copyright-breaking content sense of the word. This reminds me of the legal dispute over 'the dress' photo, but the story is that someone made a video that you've probably seen which got over 150 million views – which, in terms of media value must be worth something in the region of, say at a £10 CPM for the sake of a realistic round number; thats about one and a half million pounds worth of 'media' value created by someone who, not meaning any unkindness of any sort, had no idea what to do to make a popular video on the internet, but still ended up making an incredibly popular video on the internet to the extent that its knocked Buzzfeed's watermelon thing into the weeds. (I'll come back to the melon video in a minute.) As far as I can see, she is enjoying the ride and doing very well, and all the best wishes to her. But the value relationship between the Facebook platform that monetises the attention of its audience and everyone who copies the video to put on their own sites and turn it into 'content' is a bit of a funny one. YouTube did very well to get out of being "the place on the internet where you can find videos of anything" to a site doing a pretty good job of processing a massive volume of video and looking out for copyrighted stuff and then having a process of what to do about it. It would be nice if Facebook could do something similar – if thats even possible…
OK, thats more than enough shop talk. (I even skimmed over the big piece of Star Wars pop culture for the week to talk about advertising some more…) How about a video of an Octupus attacking a crab, which has had 150 million views on YouTube. Apparently this is the only video on this YT channel – as though someone made a cool video, decided to put it on the internet, and then sat back and watched as the view count went through the roof but never got around to making any more videos to see what happened to them. (That isn't really how it works, but I'm going to pretend that it is because the reality is far more depressing and we've all had enough about digital media for one post…)
- Speaking of octopuses and their amazing camoflague (no, not just now, it was last time, here is a master of disguise being ambushed by a master of disguise. If you're ever wondering why fish decided it was a good idea to get out of the water they could breathe in and figure out how to breathe somewhere else, its probably because this is the kind of thing that happens in the ocean.
- How about an octopus that made itself some armour?
- Here's a Reddit thread where you can see more cool octopus stuff.
- Years ago, before Rod, Jane and Freddy were a trio, Rod and Jane were married, but divorced before Freddy joined. Freddy and Jane became an item a few years later, but only just got married. I imagine that for anyone under the age of about 35 that will all be completely meaningless, while for anyone over 35, adding surnames would only be creating confusion.
- Nike.com has a great robots.txt, if you're into that kind of thing. (Again, if you need any explanation then its a thing not actually worth explaining.)
- This is mental. Plans are being drawn up for a satellite that can chuck down fireworks for the Japanese Olympic opening ceremony that will make shooting stars. Thirty million people in the Tokyo area would be able to see one of them, and its talking about taking up between five hundred and a thousand of them. Next-level fireworks…
- Nokia is back. Or rather, some bits of the Nokia business that didn't get bought up by Microsoft (and didn't that go well?) are getting another company (run by ex-Nokia execs) to build Android phones with a Nokia badge. It feels like there should be a word for taking an old brand and sticking it on a new product so that you can claim "heritage" ("moleskinning", maybe?) — but on the plus side, its got Tomi Ahonen busy again, which will be great news to anyone who was reading his blog around the time of "burning platforms".
- Spotify have done a deal to allow mixtapes to use the platform. partnership with Dubset. Not sure how this will impact Soundcloud, which seems to be kind of the YouTube for these kind of things, but anything that might make it easier for the next Girl Talk to get noticed and talked about enough for me to pick up on it can only be a good thing.
- Three UK are testing out ad blocking. There's something about this that feels somewhat parasitic. It might sound like good news for Three's customers, but I'm not so sure that cutting off the business model for the publishers they want to read on the internet is really a long-term win for anyone other than the people selling the technology to sidestep the technology that is turning the media industry inside out in all sorts of ways…
- Also on the Ad Blocking thing; Adobe/Pagefair seem to have become the de facto source of industry ad blocking stats, so the release of their latest report should be of interest to people interested in that kind of thing. (Or alternatively, people who are likely to be asked questions about that kind of thing as a part of their jobs…) I'm slightly bothered by their metric of "blocked advertising revenue" though. The idea is that if all those blocked adverts weren't blocked, then this is what they would be worth. The problem is, if all those blockers were switched off today, it wouldn't generate any additional advertising revenue tomorrow. There would be more ad units out there, and no doubt a great deal of them would be sold. But that increase in supply wouldn't lead to an increase in demand — advertisers don't have any kind of problem with a lack of online advertising inventory for them to buy and the prices going down so that inventory gets filled really doesn't feel like a positive step for anyone. I get the idea that you want to give people numbers so they can talk about how bad the ad blocker problem is and track it over time, but I'm really not convinced that it gets to the underlying problem in any way.
- I said I would say something about the Buzzfeed watermelon video, but this has gone on for far too long already, so just see what Gawker has to say about internet video views and check out the melon video along the way, just so that you can put the whole Chewbacca thing into context.
- Thinkbox have a presentation in the "nickable charts" section of their website, titled "The New Video World". In a nutshell; YouTube have pissed them off, and the knives are out…
Next time: I promise a faster update, less words, less advertising talk.
Or indeed, noticed ↩
Basically, people who media agency's clients hire to make sure that their media agency are doing what they are supposed to be doing. ↩
Actually, I'm going to head that off with another disclaimer; the report came out between me writing this and posting it, and I can't be bothered to edit the post before I've read the report, which I haven't yet done because its still in Q2. ↩
This feels a bit like the trope; "I'm not racist, but here's a thing I think about black people", or "I'm not xenophobic, but here are some good reasons why we shouldn't be in any kind of agreement, union or relationship with any other countries that isn't purely based on selling them shit" that you say to somehow defuse the stupid thing that you're about to say. Except I'm pretty sure that in modern society, having a go at the advertising industry is very rarely considered "saying something stupid". Except… well, I'll come back to the exception in a minute. ↩
By "person", I mean "unique user", which is a special term the digital media industry uses to make it sound like its talking about a person when actually its talking about a machine. ↩
Also, c) If you find a successful way get other people to make the "content" that actually fills your website, you don't need to worry about paying writers, editors, journalists etc. etc. Which is the subject of another two drafts in Q2
Also in Q2 is my reaction to the "everything you need to know about video" report that doesn't talk about the cost of incremental reach, and the TV industry body's all-out offensive on YouTube. Seriously, in a couple of months when future me has actually written all those posts, this place is going to be on fire... ↩