Hooray. The client ‘worm’ is finally turning

Hooray. The client ‘worm’ is finally turning

It’s about bloody time clients started acknowledging the mess digital is in, writes Dominic Mills – all we need now is for their agencies to do the same. Plus: A nice way to be stalked and A&E’s Skittles special.

Good for Marc Pritchard, eh? Procter & Gamble’s chief brand officer pulled no punches just over a week ago in a speech that brought together all of the things that bother people about the digital media economy, from viewability to opacity to walled gardens and measurement.

Truly, the emperor has been disrobed.

And let us not beat about the bush here. While Pritchard carries huge authority by dint of his job and his experience, it nevertheless takes courage to come out and say the things he did. You can read a fuller summary of his speech here.

It takes courage because, implicitly, Pritchard has admitted that even P&G (and therefore himself too) has swallowed the hype and fallen for shiny-new-toy syndrome. And it takes courage because he used the platform of the IAB annual leadership meeting.

This is the equivalent of accepting an invite to a glamorous party and pissing all over your host’s furniture and then trashing their integrity.

But then what is a ‘leadership’ meeting all about if no-one shows any leadership and just follows the party line? I wonder whether the IAB knew what was coming. I’d like to think its collective jaw dropped as Pritchard listed crime after crime.

Let’s hope they listened. P&G are the good guys. They believe in the power of advertising; it’s in its corporate DNA. And while it may be a demanding task master, with a preference for doing things by rote, it looks after its agencies. Except for those who sell snake oil and peddle hype, P&G is not the enemy.

You can read reaction from wise and experienced practitioners like Mark Ritson here, and Brian Jacobs here.

If you want to summarise it, you can say ‘about bloody time too’. And those who have been lone voices in the wilderness for some years can take heart. They are no longer alone. The client worm, if we can call it that, has finally turned.

What we need now is for others to add their voices to the chorus. This means clients and, if they are truly to represent their clients’ interests, rather than treat them as a piggy bank to be plundered at will, agencies too.

Fingers crossed.

I’ve been stalked – but in a nice way

Compared to other channels, digital is supposed to be the one that tracks your every action, while others are much less precise.

If there was one medium I thought that was especially difficult to measure, it was outdoor. It’s sort of roughly (but not entirely uneducated) guesswork, isn’t it?

Well no. In fact, it’s incredibly precise.

In December, just for fun, I asked Route, which tracks OOH audiences, if it could test my exposure to posters.

It gave me one of its new black boxes, aka the GPS MobiTest device. These have a certain rarity value: at any one time only the 277 members of the audience panel have one (14 days each, making 7,200 over the year).

The devices, smaller and lighter than a smartphone but thicker, are easy to use. You just shove it in your pocket whenever you go out; when you get home you plug it in and your data is transmitted overnight for processing. I forgot to carry it a couple of times and got a polite reminder.

I’m told it’s not particularly difficult to recruit consumers – despite a paltry £15.00 voucher incentive – and at 80 per cent the completion rate is pretty good.

The device is clever. It’s second-by-second accurate to within two metres; it’s got an accelerometer, a gyroscope, a thermometer, a barometer and a magnetometer (apparently that’s a compass).

All of this means it can track my every step, pace and orientation – i.e. the way I’m facing – even when I’m inside a building or on the tube – as well as the time spent by individual sites. And these days there are a lot of ‘indoor’ posters.

This slide shows me arriving at Waterloo – posters everywhere! – and catching the tube to Regents Park.

(Click image to expand)

Stalking it most definitely is – but good stalking, not bad.

Overlay all that data on to a map of poster sites, check it against schedules and you can tell what my exposure has been regardless of whether I’m walking, driving or on a train.

Looking at the data I’m slightly depressed to see what a creature of habit I am. But aren’t we all.

The level of detail is extraordinary.

This slide has detail about getting off the train at Waterloo.

And this slide shows me switching to the tube.

Not bad, huh? And not a dodgy walled garden or opaque viewability issue to grapple with.

That’s the thoroughly modern medium of OOH for you.

And yes, I was going to Carat Towers at Regents Park but to attend a third-party meeting they were hosting.

A&E’s Skittles special

A couple of weeks ago, talking about the amputation of the RKCR bit of Y&R London, I wondered why so few agency start-up entrepreneurs stayed the course after their earn-out.

Faced with a future racking up the air miles and dealing with network crap, most opted for the exit.

One extra reason, I should have added, was the failure of their network owners to offer them a bigger field to play on.

This fate doesn’t seem to have hit the founders of A&E – the exit last week of Jon Forsyth apart.

Despite wallets stuffed full of Omnicom dollars, the remaining founders opted to stay on, having transferred management of the main London agency to the next generation.

Why? Well, back in the summer enlightened owner DDB gave them a micro network with which to paint their magic, starting with the US.

The first fruits of this became evident at the weekend, with A&E’s debut in the Superbowl for Skittles – and fields to play on don’t get much bigger than this. You can see the ad here. It may not be a typical Superbowl blockbuster, but it’s sharp, entertaining and, well, displays a very Skittles eccentricity.

You wonder why more networks don’t do exhibit similar far-sightedness. It’s a good way to keep hold of the talent they acquired so expensively. Corporate ego, I’d say.

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