Neil Thackray’s Business Media Blog

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Enders the World at SIPA Event

SIPA puts on some of the most practical conference events about media and their latest event takes plaxce on July 12th.   It’s not just talk and chalk with the rooms set up for interesting round table discussions.  Speakers include Care Enders of Enders Analysis and the CEO of Lloyds List.   You can see the full programme and details of how to register here.  Oh and hurry – the event is on 12th July


June 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How Nike Lost the World Cup (Guest Post)

World Cup Advertising…Is Nike’s Brand Essence just ‘air’?

 So just who is winning the media battle of the world cup? In spite of ITV’s high level signings, Adam Crozier’s campaign got off to a start worse than England’s.  Under the new management (Crozier himself – former clubs Saatchi and Saatchi and the Football Association) and with new signings including Captain Childes from local rivals the BBC, the ITV team managed to score a hat-trick of own goals. 

First they omitted to broadcast the crucial strap-line in Nike’s lavish world cup advertisement during England’s warm up match against Mexico, and then, perhaps nervous in defence, they over compensated (but with the wrong ad) broadcasting a Hyundai commercial in the middle of a match just when England scored!!  Plus they suffered a third embarrassment with tv pundit Robbie Earle, appearing  to emulate alleged dodgy dealings of managers and directors of football clubs by selling  the broadcasters over-generous ticket allocation to some orange lovelies.  Is it any wonder our team are short of direction? Just look at their media mentors.

 And it’s a shame too, as ITV’s World Cup promotion also mirrored our boys performance, big signings, glossy promo film… we all got excited at the beginning only to be let down when the real action started .

When we finally saw the completed, expensive and stylish Nike ad, it  forecast our ignominious football performance.  Rather than building on the previous (and excellent) ‘Take it to another level’ campaign which took us on a footballers career as seen through the eyes of the player and championed hard work as the key to success…the new Nike ad celebrated footballs’ superstars; and like those same superstars the ad, like our world cup campaign crashed and burned.

It began with Didier Drogba (injured after the commercial, suffering and below his club best, knocked out first round) the film shows  his shot heading for goal only to be kicked off the line by Italy’s Cannavaro (also knocked out first round). We then see France (you’ve guessed it first round casualties who imploded, went on strike and have subsequently been summoned to a ‘meeting’ with the president) playing England, and Ribery (the subject of pretty disgusting French media allegations) getting tackled by Rooney resulting in the England team going onto glor, rather than his mistake leaving him to a future life as a groundsman living in a caravan.  Now  it looks like Rooney is heading for gardening rather than greatness as he  performs well below his best.

Fair enough Nike also feature Brazil and Portugal however the player featured (Ronaldino) wasn’t selected for Brazil, and in spite of Portugal  scoring 7 goals so far, the great Ronaldo has only got one of them…surely Homer Simpson and Federra (who featured in cameo appearances) could have done better.

So why do Nike invest and endorse such over-paid and underperforming celebrities? What happened to the previous culture they flirted with when they championed hard-work and normal people ‘just doing it’.  Had they forgotten previous campaigns where Nike celebrities were plastered all over billboards and then many were not even picked by their countries? 

 The risk  of a celebrity campaignis that it creates exactly the opposite brand adjectives than those intended.  Who wants over priced, style rather than substance, all hype and as Nike say themselves just ‘air’.  Let’s hope the developing world workers who make the shoes will have the last laugh as the countrythat works hardest for its money walks off with the prize…but probably not in a pair off Nike’s.

Gordon Drummond

Media and Radio Industry Consultant.

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June 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

How the vuvuzela is ruining business media

My excuse for watching the World Cup has been to wonder what it might teach us about the current state of the business media industry. I have been surprised by how much insight into our business watching Rooney, Heskey, Terry and the rest of them, has provided.  Who would have thought that Wayne Rooney could help us rebuild the business media industry?

Let’s start though with the wretched vuvuzela.  The players complain they can’t hear each other or the refereees whistle.  Nobody can hear what the crowd is singing or the tactical shouting from the dug out.  The wider audience at home might be thinking it would be more pleasurable to listen to the grunting at Wimbledon than the incessant buzzing of the vuvuzela.  What has been the result of all this cacophony?  For England a demonstration of what we have always done.  Hoof the ball up the field, thinking perhaps it is still made from rain sodden pigs bladder encased in half the hide of a Blackpool donkey rather than a precision object to be passed between each other.  We know it doesn’t work.  The coach knows it doesn’t work.  The players even know it doesn’t work.  Somehow the noise around them drives all sense from their brains and they become too frightened to try something new.  They can’t hear, for the noise of the vuvuzela orchestra, the increasingly desperate pleas from the coach, the fans and the experts, to change their approach on the pitch.  Instead they turn on each other. They blame the boss, the ball, the pitch and in Rooneys case the fans.  We, the armchair pundits know what to do, but it appears that no one is listening.  They can’t hear or think for the sound of the blessed vuvuzela.

In business media hardly a week goes by without news of a redundancy round, a reduction in publishing frequency, a magazine closure or the fire sale of a title.  This hasn’t happened suddenly.  It has been happening at an acclerating pace for a number of years.  Like the footballers who keep hoofing the ball, we keep doing the same thing.  It used to work didn’t it?  If we keep at it maybe it will work again we think.  All around us our readers (the fans) and most of the experts are telling us to change the approach, but save for occasional moments of inspiration (I rather like, for example, the work RBI has done with ExpertHR which has built a bigger and more sustainable business than Personnel Today ever was) nothing much seems to change.

So what is causing this deafness?  What is the business media equivalent of the vuvuzela? How could we get it banned? The African horn is made of plastic and blows a single note when air is puffed into it.  The business media horn is made of false hope that the methods of the past will still be useful in the future.  It is made of vanity and pride that our magazines are still great, it is the fans (readers) fault for not reading them any more.  It is made of the naievity of thinking that third rate web publishing will somehow save us.

How can the noise be silenced? You can’t move from hoofing it up the field to an elegant passing game iteratively.  The whole approach of everybody in the team and in the management of the team has to change. Everyone has to believe that the new way is the right way.  No dressing room tantrums.  No water cooler bitching.  No hiding from the detailed responsibility for getting it done by the CEO.  It starts with leadership and the ability to explain what we are doing to colleagues and customers (players and fans) in simple straight forward and logical language (I may have stumbled on the problem with the England management set up!).  It needs everyone to let go of the past.  When it gets hard, as we try and do new things in new ways, when things go wrong we cannot revert to our old ways, we must stick with it.

So lets let go of  the old pubishing model, lets find new ways to win in business media.  Let’s expect things to go wrong from time to time.  Lets pursue the new future together, with commmon aims and approach.  But to do this we need clear heads and we must all go “Shhhh!” to the bloody vuvuzelas.

June 23, 2010 Posted by | business media strategy | Leave a comment

The Danger of Complacency

Grant Thornton and the Economist Intelligence Unit have produced an interesting paper called “Retrench or Refresh”. It explores the challenges that all business faces in the new economic circumstances of post recession planning. Although it is general, I was struck by how relevant the principals it espouses are for the business media and the wider media industry.

“Business model change has been overly cost centered and left many companies unready for the future”.
The first recourse when revenues fall is to cut costs often at the expense of changing their value proposition. All media companies recognise that changes to their business model are required to escape from the malaise and yet the cost cuts have been so deep that many are at risk of losing out to more innovative companies. The report expects that cost structure strategies will continue to be the main focus of business model change in the next eighteen months. This is nothing less than a fundamental challenge to business leadership.

The problem with a downturn, especially one as deep as this, and when combined with a technology change, is that business focusses increasingly on the short term – at the very time when good long term strategic thinking is required.

This is because “Executives are pesimistic about a rapid return to market growth”. Some media companies are in danger of deluding themselves about the strength of the recovery. In my view, the better results recently declared simply show how terrible last year was. Compared to the meltdown of the first half of last year, the trading climate this year feels almost benign. But lets not forget that the year on year comparisons disguise the depth of the fall. If in our private moments we are still pessimistic that business will not return to normal then GT’s next point is very sharp,

“Complacency is preventing more widespread business model innovation”. According to the report, 89% of companies believe their company’s business model is set up to let them succeed over the next eighteen months. The danger of a dowwnturn isthat it makes us think short term at the very moment when we need clear long term strategic thinking.

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June 1, 2010 Posted by | business media strategy | , , , , | Leave a comment