Listening to stories

The global reach of the small idea

Posted in Adland, Automation, Data, Digital, digital marketing, Longtail, Uncategorized by James Welch on December 27, 2015

This article first appeared in the Media Buzz column, GULF NEWS, 23 December 2015.JW_gulfnews_dec2015_v2

Across the UAE, one in three people uses their smartphone to buy products and services. That’s more than in many other countries.

As readers of this business section, what are we doing with this information? Actually, we’re doing well, we’re bringing our products and services online, onto the mobile web and producing great apps from which we can purchase said products and services.

We know that our audiences research online and are starting to buy more and more regularly online.

The UAE business community is providing its online consumers with banking, grocery shopping, the latest fashions, perfumes and consumer electronics. And if these consumers look hard enough they can find plenty of local garden furniture, barbeques and gazebos too.

Local offerings, when really sought after, can be found online.

But before we pat ourselves on the back too enthusiastically, we need to take a step back and realise that we’re building these beautiful, functional castles in the desert without taking as much care and attention to building the roads and signposts needed to find these castles.

Build it and they will come?

The ‘build it and they will come’ approach doesn’t work (more…)

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2015 in review: change is coming in all directions

Posted in Adland, advertising, Data, Digital, digital marketing, digital media, Middle East by James Welch on November 30, 2015

JW_GulfNews_Nov2015This article first appeared in GULF NEWS, 17 November 2015.

The recent news reports have not been pretty for those in advertising or media: marketers are demanding unprecedented transparency from their agencies and consumers are trying to turn off advertising.

It is time for change, but what does change look like?

Budgets are being slashed. For example, P&G, the world’s biggest advertiser, last month announced its quest to reduce expenditure on advertising by $200 million (Dh734.63). “We are strengthening marketing — greater reach, higher frequency, greater effectiveness, at less overall cost,” the CFO Jon Moeller announced. Savings would be used, he continued, “to invest in working media and sampling”.

Agencies are finding that even digital spends are not forthcoming. For example, the Publicis Groupe announced poor Q3 results, with CEO Maurice Levy declaring, “September showed zero growth due to numerous campaigns being postponed, mainly in digital operations. The level of cuts are surprisingly high and coming from many different advertisers from packaged goods, automotive and pharma.”

Marketers are all putting their media buying up for pitch. WPP, the world’s biggest agency group, (more…)

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Adman: are you bored in your job? BBH shows the answer: get a TIE.

Posted in Adland, advertising, Green, TIE by James Welch on November 19, 2015

tie newsletter 1Adland is a fickle place. Employees don’t hang about. But there’s a way to fix this. A TIE. Yes, TIE (The International Exchange) has the answer.

Stats tell us that marketing directors are in their roles for 18-36 months – just long enough to make an impression. Or not as the case may be. And ad-men and women last about the same in any given role. Or less.

As team members, why do we stay?

The only reason to stay in any job is to make sure that the employment pie-chart is in fair-or-maybe-equal parts: earning, learning and fun. And if the parts move to much, it’s time to renegotiate and/or move on.

As employers, how do we keep the team?

While it should be noted that no manager needs a retention tool for the mediocre, we all need ways to supercharge those with true potential. In adland, there’s a tried and tested model to reinvigorate team players. The International Exchange does just the thing. (more…)

Advertising for the chairman’s wife

Posted in Uncategorized by James Welch on October 26, 2015

This where I write a piece in Campaign Magazine about waste in advertising and how targeting niche audiences on billboards is nuts.

advertising for the chairmans wifeShe’s an important stakeholder. We may have never met her. But she’s the one that the marketing department knows is vital to any campaign’s internal success. And the ad agency also makes certain that she’ll readily find appeal in the latest advertising campaign. Often, the media agency will be told to buy the billboard on the main road near her house. Or on her route to work. Or the masthead on her favorite news site. Bought for a month at a time, when available. The point here is that it’s using mass media for niche targeting: that’s advertising for the chairman’s wife. And that’s an age-old phenomenon which is no longer necessary in such expensive volumes.

We all know there is so much media budget being wasted. Every marketer and creative agency has heard a story about their friend’s media agency churning out the same media plan, year-in, year-out, oblivious to client category or objectives. I’m sure it’s not your agency, but the one next door, right?

This presents a clear opportunity, to minimise waste. (more…)


Posted in advertising, apple, gulf news, joe jaffe by James Welch on September 23, 2015

ADVERTISING DEAD 1…or is adblocking not the end after all?

Advertising is getting a lot of stick again these days. For one fundamental reason: advertisers have by-and-large forgotten to engage, entertain and enthuse their target audiences. And therefore many people are frustrated with advertising and turning it off wherever they can. This is why adblocking came about.

Adblocking comes in two forms: First, where people turn on the Private Browsing, Incognito or Do Not Track (DNT) button in their web browser. This stops advertisers putting a cookie onto a computer so that the advertising that person sees is now random not tailored to the user. The other form of adblocking is to stop all advertising completely. Currently adblocking is mainly on Google Chrome and on Firefox, but Apple’s IOS9 (more…)

The power of frequent, light-weight interactions

Posted in Uncategorized by James Welch on August 24, 2015

frequent, lightweight interactions

Of “the five rules for normal management“, rule number three is short and sweet:

#3. Communicate regularly

The list of “rules for normal management” jumps to internal communication when stipulating the need to communicate regularly with colleagues: “Start each meeting with the minutes and those action steps committed at the last meeting. Don’t be shy to push your colleagues to deliver on their promises. Hopefully they’ll reciprocate. Follow through.

And it’s a universal truth, as every telco will remind you to communicate regularly. Especially on Mother’s Day! I grew up with the British Telecom ads reminding us that 

it’s good to talk.

And if it’s good to talk, it’s also good to inspire future conversations. Like the story teller at the dinner party; everyone loves inviting that friend who’s the story teller who engages everyone and who sparks the conversation. It’s the same in a business meeting. And in terms of advertising too. Story telling is overused nowadays, as a generic buzz word. But it’s not the ‘telling’ that’s vital. It’s the regularly engagement.

Paul Adams was a head of design at Facebook when he wrote his book, Grouped, where he uses the phrase

frequent, light-weight interactions

to describe how we build relationships across social platforms as well as in the real world. Well, we do that in the work place too, as per the rules of normal management: communicate regularly.

Think about it, that’s how we build relationships with friends. That’s how we build relationships with products and services. Frequently interacting. Not heavy conversations. But light-weight ones, mainly. We get to know a lot about each other, over a short time, but catching up regularly.

We need to do this with colleagues and stakeholders. We need to do this with customers.

And advertisers need to do this with their target audiences. All their target audiences.

Key here is to acknowledge that there are different audiences. We can have one key message to get across, but we’ll frame it differently, to different people at different times. And the best way to get it across to these different audiences is to reinforce the point in different ways, regularly.

I see that Simon Kemp has recently shared another of his aphorisms on Linkedin.

This idea of inspiring others to talk favourably about you / your brand works beyond “social media”. It’s applicable to all sorts of areas in life and in business: A brand, a business, a business partner, a manager, an employee, a friend, a parent, a child all need to know how to spark further, favourable conversations.

Let’s ask ourselves these two questions:

Which business has sparked a conversation around your dinner table this week?

Which conversations, as individuals, should we have sparked last week but didn’t?

And now let’s look at how we can use regular communications – or frequent, light-weight interactions – to spark new conversations with a range of audiences going forward.

This post first appeared on LINKEDIN.

The five rules of normal management, number four: Be Professional

Posted in Uncategorized by James Welch on August 23, 2015

all roads

More good advice from the analogue age – which is vital also for the digital age.

This is wisdom received from a successful entrepreneur in the land of finance from the days before the “entrepreneur” was ubiquitous.

He taught me from an early age about the five rules for normal management.

Over the coming posts I’ll show how the ‘five rules for normal management’ apply excellently to great digital management.

Let’s roll on to rule number four and there’s a lot to this one:

Four: Be Professional

4.1 Foresight. A longer term vision. Segregate the important from the urgent (remember the urgent tends to replace the important). Prioritise. It can be done better. How?

4.2 Reliability. Never promise more than you know you can easily deliver. Deliver more. Do what you have said you will do; No matter what.

4.3 Integrity. Hard to earn a reputation for it, easy to lose it. Integrity separates the survivors from the flashes in the pan. A dedication both to excellence and to truth, no matter what. Give bad news first and quickly. Better to get your version of it on the table, than someone else’s.

4.4 Presentation: Bad form can destroy good content. You have to look professional, as well as being professional. A rigorous attention to overall organisation, as well as to detail. Spellcheck.

4.5 Timing: The key to getting business and appearing professional. It includes seizing every opportunity to speak to the customer – you may never know what is going on. Unpunctuality is a sign of lack of professionalism. If you feel “What’s happening on x”, trust your instinct. It’s time.

First, let’s address foresight. From a digital management perspective, if we don’t  have foresight, we’re not planning where we’re going. As the adage says

If we don’t know where we’re going,
all roads look just as good.

What’s the point of trying to manage data if we don’t know what we’re trying to  do with it.

Gartner’s perennial Hype Cycle back in 2013 used to have Big Data at the Peak of Inflated Expectations and it put Predictive Analytics way over on the Plateau of Productivity.

Too many of us are dabbling with Big Data and are hyping it up, ready to be disillusioned by it all. The smart ones don’t talk about big data, they talk about predictive analytics – knowing where they’re going – based upon all those streams of structured and unstructured data.

Gartner’s Hype Cycle, published annually since 1995

If you’re not familiar with Gartner, do see my earlier article introducing Gartner’s Hype Cycle.

Next, reliability and integrity are intrinsically linked. And these two together provide a foundation stone of the future of digital media: meritocracy. If you and your business can’t be transparent, can’t show clearly the merit of being part of the party, your days are numbered. Data provides meritocracy.

Finally, professionalism requires both the two buddies, presentation and timing. In an earlier post I talked about the 2Ps. Now let’s bring in the military 6Ps: Prior-Preparation-Prevents-Piss-Poor-Performance. The digital world shows how practice/experience/diligence allow us to get presentation and timing right.

Truly professional, digital business practice is vital to get ahead of the crowd. Can you bring examples of how foresight, reliability, integrity, presentation and timing are all vital to digital business management?

Please do comment below!

The five rules of normal management, number five: PERSEVERANCE

Posted in Uncategorized by James Welch on August 22, 2015

TWO-RULES-FOR-SUCCESSHere’s some good advice from the analogue age – which is vital also for the digital age.

This is wisdom received from a successful entrepreneur in the land of finance from the days before the “entrepreneur” was ubiquitous.

He taught me that there are two rules for success:

First, never reveal everything you know…

Perhaps more helpfully, he also taught me from an early age about the five rules for normal management.

Over the coming posts I’ll show how the ‘five rules for normal management’ apply excellently to great digital management.

Let’s start with rule number five:

Five: Perseverance
Persist. Persist. Persist. When it looks desperate: persist. When it’s going well, it can be done better. Persist.


The five rules of normal management

Posted in general management by James Welch on April 27, 2015

normal management

Here’s some good advice from the analogue age – which is vital also for the digital age.

This is wisdom received from a successful entrepreneur in the land of finance from the days before the “entrepreneur” – and the term “entrepreneur” – were ubiquitous.

He taught me – from an early age – about the five rules for normal management. I quote these rules here, verbatim.

The Five Rules of Normal Management

1 Know your customer


Measuring success and performance in advertising

Posted in Adland, Automation, Data, Digital by James Welch on December 18, 2014

How do most digital advertisers measure success? Through data analysis, of course.

But, not enough advertisers have access to their own digital data in a usable way.

Such a pity.

It’s not about big data, it’s about sourcing usable data.

A recent report about financial advertisers using digital channels has been published. It is worth a read. (Contact details at the bottom of this article.)

The report is based upon data captured through a data management platform across seven brands and five months.

It shows what brands can do, and should do, leveraging their own (and owned) first-party data.

I urge you to have a look at this table and think about it. It sums up success in digital lead generation a.k.a. performance advertising.

With a data management platform, (more…)


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