Listening to stories

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…)

Six Significant Changes in Advertising for 2015

Posted in Adland, Automation, Brand, Data, Digital by James Welch on December 7, 2014

As the new year approaches everyone is wondering what will really happen in 2015. And only a few of us really know!

I’ll happily share with you a few points – and I’ll frame it as seven significant changes in our vocabulary because they just won’t need explaining any longer:


    Second-screening. Wish I'd had this when at the Dubai Rugby Sevens yesterday!

    Second-screening. Imagine if I’d had this app on my phone when at the Dubai Rugby Sevens yesterday. Imagine if the data providers could tell what billboards were near me and play relevant data-targeted ads with reference to the environment, the outdoor billboards, the big TV screens etc…

advertisers will reach a point in May (why May? That’s another story!) where they no longer need to refer to “cross-screen” advertising. Why? Because everything will just work across all screens. ALL screens. And we’ll even be able to track advertising across all screens and all operating systems in a way that only Facebook, Google and Apple can today – albeit only across their operating systems at the time of writing.


“digital first” will be an expression of the past. It’ll just be what we all think and do. Instead we’ll remember at the last minute before submitting any advertising proposal “what about TV and billboards?” Okay, maybe TV and billboards won’t be forgotten like that. But still, maybe it’s time for the 2005 prophecy by Joe Jaffe to come to life: Today, some 65 years after it was first used, the 30-second spot is like Sean Connery – still sexy as hell but not much of a long-term prospect.” (more…)

Supertargeting: If an ad isn’t adding value, it’s not an advertisement, it’s wallpaper.

Posted in Uncategorized by James Welch on October 10, 2014

Supertargeting for digital advertising is possible across the globe through third party data. But no one sells much third party data here in the Middle East so supertargetting online is – some say – a dream. Except for in a few places; Facebook is one of them.

eyeYou know how you see ‘relevant’ ads on Facebook more often than elsewhere? That’s thanks to aggregated profile data made available to advertisers. When not used smartly, supertargeting can become super creepy. Have you ever felt stalked online? The aim is to avoid that, of course. If an ad isn’t adding value, it’s not an advertisement, it’s wallpaper.

Well, Facebook has just announced at its F8 Conference (click here for the link), the launch of its Audience Network (aka FAN) for advertisers spending in mobile – giving an alternative option to the quasi-monopoly that Google has been enjoying. You see, in the cookie-less land of mobile, Google, Facebook and Apple are amongst the few who can track and identify users across screens and devices. Only Apple doesn’t sell that information.

So now, via both Facebook and Google networks, we can target people more closely both on computers and when their out and about via mobile. Thank you Facebook and Google!

Read more here: and here

Alibaba and the Forty Thieves – at an IPO that would raise almost $22 billion

Posted in Uncategorized by James Welch on September 19, 2014

Tomorrow, the next big IPO in techland is taking place; so, what do you know about Alibaba?Ali_Baba_and_the_Forty_Thieves_VideoCover

Surely, Ali Baba is a poor woodcutter who discovers the secret of a thieves’ den, entered with the phrase “Open Sesame“. The thieves learn this, and try to kill Ali Baba. But Ali Baba’s faithful slave-girl foils their plots; Ali Baba gives his son to her in marriage and keeps the secret of the treasure.

Well, let me tell you what the other Alibaba does, EVERYTHING!

In wikipedia-speak, it’s “a family of highly successful Internet-based businesses.” Jack Ma (more…)

Wearables: You Are What You Wear

Posted in Uncategorized by James Welch on September 7, 2014

My wife – in the early days of just-dating – threw out my orange, baggy, linen shirt. I liked it because all my other clothes were safe, dull, grey. I liked it because it made a statement.

John Waters didn’t hitchhike across the States in this, I don’t think

John Waters didn’t hitchhike across the States in this, I don’t think

John Waters, the film director, has just written a book on hitchhiking. During an interview on my new fave podcast, Fresh Air *, he revealed that his favorite suit is plaid – and the top half and the bottom half don’t match. Except they do match at the back. That makes a statement.


So Long, Singapore

Posted in Adland, Brand, Data, Digital by James Welch on July 11, 2014

So Long, Singapore!

Wow, the last two years have been exciting. But it’s time to say, so long, Singapore.

MBA vs real-world learning

In December 2011, I told some old friends that I was about to do an MBA in Australia – where I lived at the time – at an unheard of business school. They explained to me that it was too little too late: “You’re supposed to be turning 30 not pushing 40; you’re supposed to do it at a famous school with cool people, not a cheap school with average people.” Fair cop. They asked me why I was keen to get a Master’s in Business Administration anyway and I explained I wanted to use it to work out what’s next. “That’s an expensive way to procrastinate,” said one of said friends. Harsh, but fair.

So, three months later, I feigned a family holiday and instead booked a solo trip to Singapore. I met 35 people in seven days. And asked each person to introduce me to one more person, if they could.

Mumbrella, June 2012

Mumbrella, June 2012

One of those ‘one-more-people’ was the guy at WPP’s “other trading desk” the Media Innovation Group. The digital media tech company on the bleeding edge of digital whose tools were used by GroupM. And this bloke decided I was the man for the role to bring his business to life across Asia Pacific.

Soon enough it was announced in the press (thank you, mumbrella) that I would be moving on to embark upon some “real-world learning” to launch WPP’s Media Innovation Group across Asia Pacific.

Data, creativity and real-time bidding

The business at the Media Innovation Group was technical. And naturally, full of three letter abbreviations. The Media Innovation Group (MIG) was a real-time bidding (RTB) media buying shop – sometimes called a trading desk – with a state-of-the-art data management platform (DMP). Since those ‘early days’, everyone has started talking more about “programmatic”. But if anyone uses such language with you, ask them to explain themselves. Most can but many can’t! The tech-heads think media is all about tech. It’s not, it’s about results, of course.



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