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10 Apr

It’s not every day I get to slag off one of my own ads but I’m always up for doing something new, so here goes. Recently, I created a TV commercial for the Suzuki Vitara. It looks like this:

Cantata Vitara

As with all advertising, any ad good enough to make it on TV needs to have a life online. Naturally, we have placed it on YouTube and, as you would expect, the Suzuki Facebook page directs visitors to Youtube to watch the ad. So far, all so very good. However, let’s look a little closer at what is going on on Facebook:

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 10.13.32

It looks great. Getting on for two million views and 1500 likes, less than a week after the ad first went on air. Now, I fully appreciate that if an ad appears on TV in a half decent show on a terrestrial channel (which, thankfully, ours does), around 2 million people will see it every time it airs. Hopefully, at least 1500 of them will like what they see. But these Facebook stats are special, aren’t they? Surely these 1.7million viewers are people who have GONE OUT OF THEIR WAY to watch our ad. Surely that must mean something very positive for Suzuki?

Well, let’s see what is really going on. The Suzuki Cars UK Facebook page currently has around 34,000 fans.It could be that each of these die-hards has watched watched the advert over 50 times. But when I visit YouTube, where the film is hosted, I see that it has received just over 1000 views. So what does 1,747,560 views mean? Views to the Suzuki Facebook page? That seems unlikely, and it certainly looks as if this is the tally of viewers of the ad. But we know that it cat be viewers of the ad. So what can it be? A lie? Surely not!

One thing is certain: someone somewhere is being a little free and easy with their numbers. Is it Suzuki? Is it Facebook? My gut feeling is the latter. By amplifying its viewer figures, Facebook is better able to equip media sales teams with sexy stats that make brands like Suzuki want to spend money with them. And why would Suzuki exaggerate the number of people who have watched their ad, yet not multiply the number of people who like their page? (At least not to the same exaggerated extent.)

All in all, I am left with the firm belief that Facebook stats are at best, misleading and at worst, blatant lies. The maths doesn’t add up and actually works towards damaging Facebook’s already tarnished reputation.

To Facebook, or not

10 Feb


Despite my enormous prejudice against any advertising that includes Facebook and marketing in the same sentence, occasionally I scan the internet to see if anyone has cracked the uncrackable and genuinely used this hugely popular website to boost sales.

With a billion users and now over ten years to perfect their pitch, if anyone can use social media to win big, it should be Facebook. And, as creative director of an agency handling some brands that have yet to become household names, I wanted to know how Facebook might help me. So I hit Google and found this blog from Hubspot, listing nine notable success stories.

My heart sank when I read the first case study: Nike. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like very much what Nike are doing on Facebook. Their page, like most of the other pages selected by the Hubspot blog, is run like a magazine. It is filled with a wealth of content and, being Nike, they have fingers in many sporting and lifestyle pies and so have a huge amount that they can talk about. No doubt they have employed writers and journalists to compile and collate. It is professional. This isn’t a page where, every other day, the client asks its followers what their favourite colour / day of the week / burger combo might be.

So, what exactly is the problem? Well, the problem is that this is Nike. A multi-national sport and leisure brand that has existed for over 40 years. A brand that leapt forwards the moment in 1988 when Dan Weiden penned those three immortal words: ‘Just do it.’ Facebook didn’t make Nike, nor did it make Microsoft, Universal Pictures or Taco Bell – other contenders on Hubspot’s list.

In fact, the learning from this list that is intended to inspire clients to truly embrace Facebook as a viable marketing tool, is that in order for Facebook to work for you, you need to already be famous. And while this is great news for software giants and fast food chains, how does it help a Japanese power tool brand that few people outside of Japan have heard of and which is thinking of setting up a Facebook page?

The message is that, if you haven’t made it using the conventional marketing tools of TV, outdoor, press, radio and PR or, in other words, if you’re not already a household name, Facebook doesn’t have much to offer you. If it did, we would be bombarded with the stories of brands which went from zero to premium shelf space in Tesco’s using only their Facebook marketing.

We can argue too over whether brands should bother with Facebook pages at all – I think they should. The bigger question is why they don’t invest the resource to make them as interesting as Nike’s. Too often, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are seen as a necessary evil – an add-on that agencies charge money for, which no one attaches any proper creative resource to and which transmit information rather than engage with fans of the brand.

Ultimately, social media was designed for people. Facebook originally existed to rate hot girls. It was never built to sell anything. Now that Facebook is well into its second decade, it’s time for advertisers to think clearly before filling up yet more server farms in Iowa with pages that simply tick boxes but don’t sell any.

[this blog also appears at]

Social Media – the clue’s in the name

10 Dec

OK, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

Social media.

There has been a lot of hot air expended on this subject and how it works as an advertising medium. In fact, is it an advertising medium at all?

The reason I’m writing about it today is because so many of our clients ask us for it. It is pretty much a mandatory on every brief, and no pitch is complete without a couple of slides (always at the end, just before the ones about point of sale) where we skim through what we plan to do on Facebook and Twitter and hope thatno one asks too many questions.

The problem is that most clients believe they should ‘do something’ on social media, without being active users themselves. They have also been convinced by media and advertising agencies that this is a cheap way of ‘starting conversations’ or otherwise getting a brand message across. I’m not sure what the actual stats are but from personal experience, I have never knowingly bought anything because of a tweet or a Facebook post. Nor have I engaged in a competition or game on a brand’s Facebook page. This is because I am busy and my idea of fun downtime is not scouring the web finding what interesting stuff brands might be doing online.

However, that is not to say that social media can’t work. I believe it can. It’s just that, as an industry, we are bad at doing it. It is seen as cheap advertising space and so very little resource is put behind it. Brands believe that all they need to do is tweet a fact about their products and a grateful public will rush to give them money. Social media is not a place to transmit, it is a place to chat, entertain and otherwise engage people.

It might be helpful to think of a brand’s Twitter page as a party, with the brand as the host. Firstly, people have to like the host in order to want to come to the party. Either that, or they know that there will be lots of free booze and food or at the very least, some interesting people to hang out with.

The question a brand that is hoping to use Twitter successfully must ask is “Am I interesting?” It’s all very well making good gin, or cars, or running a successful bank, but if you threw a party, who would come? How would you entertain them? And how would you keep them there after the one crate of beer you got in has all gone?

The answer is in the name. Social media. Are you social? A person who just barks facts about their work is actually quite antisocial. A person who doesn’t answer people’s questions or join in their conversations is definitely antisocial. A person who spends most of their time not even at the party they have organized is pretty rude. So the answer is simple. Be friendly. Be chatty. Be sociable. And most of all, be there.

A simple example would be to look at the media schedule for when your brand’s advertising will be on TV. And at this point it’s fair to say that it is very difficult to build any kind of brand purely via social media, unless of course that brand is Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Being on TV is where any aspiring brand should want to be. People still watch TV, worldwide in their billions. TV is not dead. Many people watch TV with a second screen and comment in real time on what they are watching. So, back to the media schedule. Find out when your commercial is airing and be there when people pass comment on it. If your commercial is on in the middle of Coronation Street, it helps to know the current storyline, who the characters are and to be a fan of the show. The people who will see your ad will be huge fans of the show. They will comment on it, who they love, who they hate. And when the ads come on, they will not stop commenting. They will comment on your ad. They may like it, they may hate it. They may be quite vocal about it. It’s easy to label people as trolls but trolls can be won round. Trolls are customers too. So when they heap praise or abuse at your door (on Twitter there is no middle ground), be there. And by being there, I don’t mean have an intern manning your Twitter, have someone who can write and convey your brand’s values confidently. You are a fan of the show. That means from the moment the show starts, you begin commenting on it. You have a right to be there – your brand is in one of the breaks. You are part of the viewing experience. Don’t try and sell anything. Be funny if you can. Reply to comments, even the negative ones. People with 100 followers freak out when a famous brand replies to them or retweets them. It is an exercise in building love.

Recently, one of our clients sponsored a major reality TV show. For three hours a night for twelve weeks, we chatted to an army of fans of the show who then became fans of our brand. We won over haters and even mentioned some of our fans on our TV break bumpers. It’s hard to tell if this generated sales, but when someone is in the supermarket and is faced with a staggering choice of breakfast cereals, or coffee, or chocolate bars, it’s possible that they may go for the brand who replied to their tweet the night before, who followed them and who said something about a show that you both love that echoed what they themselves were thinking. By doing this, you are in the same gang as your customers, you are all peers, and because the party was good, they’ll come back to the next one.

Please make this end

30 Jan

We’ve been briefed by an insurance company to look after their social media. It’s quite a challenge, especially as I have never visited the Facebook page of an insurance company, nor have I followed any of the Twitter feeds provided by this sector. And do you know why this is? Because I AM NOT REMOTELY INTERESTED IN THEM. If ever there was a distress purchase, it is insurance. I buy it because I have to, and I resent the fact that I need it. But hey, a company wants to give me money to fill space because they have been told that social media adds value to their offering and sets them up as an open, available and forward thinking concern. Who am I to say no?

My first step was to visit the Facebook page of an industry leader, Aviva. Here is their Facebook page right now, at the point of writing this blog, at 3pm on 30 January 2014.

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 10.52.04 Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 10.50.09

Yes, that’s right. A letter of complaint from an irate Aviva customer, threatening to sue the company. Curious as to why Aviva have exposed themselves to the public ire, I read on. Apparently, the company has teamed up with Heart FM to brighten up the Monday of one lucky listener a week. A nice idea, which leads them to ask Facebook ‘fans’ how their Monday could be better. Cue this:

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 10.52.04


A lengthy rant from a man who has received a 4.5k insurance quote for a £300 runabout, completely spoiling his Monday.

Which leads me tho ask – what does Aviva (and my client) expect from a Facebook page? Why would their customers visit? Any information they might need is surely contained (and managed, and given a positive spin) in the company’s website. There might even be a Wikipedia page with a few impressive stats. And there are always the price comparison websites from whom the insurance companies must get so much or their trade. Aviva use their Facebook to announce initiatives such as the tie in with Heart, and to promote their money advice blog. But howe many people ‘like’ this stuff? Well, the stats tell their own story. People liking each of Aviva’s updates are currently in single figures.

Was it Aviva’s advertising agency that suggested they ‘do’ social media? Was it their digital agency? Or did they just feel obliged to join in the mass stampede? And what did they want their Facebook page to achieve? Sales? Enquiries? Friends? Because at the moment, this is an online newspaper that nobody reads, one that, should it be printed and placed on the shelves of a newsagent, would never sell.

I go back to the truth that insurance is a distress purchase. That makes an insurance company as interesting as the companies who remove the blue bins from ladies loos. Those companies probably don’t have Facebook pages, or fans, and no one would expect them to. And yet someone, somewhere is filling the Aviva page with content, stuck on transmit, stopping occasionally to placate the Mr Wilsons and the Simon Deans. 

I haven’t yet worked out my approach to our insurance client’s social media brief. My opening gambit will be to tell them that we are an advertising agency, and to ask them what they would like us to help them sell. Then I’ll ask them which insurance company is really winning big with their social activity. I’ll even ask them which other brands are using social media to dramatically increase revenue. The dispiriting truth is that I am not expecting them to have any answers to hand.



LinkedIn should know better

5 Jun

This morning, LinkedIn trumpeted ‘The Rise of Social Commerce – how tweets, pins and likes can turn into sales’.

Surely this is a Holy Grail of sorts, or at the very least, some kind of wonderful alchemy. I like LinkedIn and so I read on, prepared to be knocked down by examples of commercial success fuelled entirely by Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.

Inevitably, none came and the feature’s writer, Josh Luger simply trots out some meaningless stats. In fact the piece itself is an advert, wanting me to sign up to a service offered by an outfit called BI Intelligence who will furnish me with all the proof I need that social media can boost my sales. However, for those who are just curious, we are given a brief overview of the wonders of social selling.

We are told that Facebook and Pinterest contribute to 56% of all socially generated sales. I’m not sure how a socially generated sale is measured – is it when I see a friend on FB wearing a jumper, I ask them where they got it then go and buy one myself? And what does this 56% mean? Recently, a mobile marketing outfit boasted that mobile advertising’s success rate had leapt by 38% in a year. I think it had gone from something like 0.0o2 to 0.003 of all sales. A huge hike.

Sites like Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram and Wanelo, we are told, are becoming repositories for shopping ideas, fashion tips and wish lists. The piece likens them to an online catalogue and quotes a recent survey by Zmags (a mobile catalog company) that 63% of online shoppers say they plan to use online catalogs. 35% said they plan to use Pinterest to make purchases. Who are these people? Why don’t I know any of them? Why aren’t I queuing up to use Pinterest as a purchasing tool? More importantly, why do I only know about three people in my social network who actually use Pinterest? Why are only a third of my close friends and family actively using Facebook, with the number far lower for Twitter?
The piece claims that the biggest obstacle to social selling is ease of use. They are not seeing the elephant in the room – the fact that no one comes to the web to be sold to. Web use is dynamic – most often we go for information. We are not passive like a TV viewer or a radio listener. We are on a mission and anything that interrupts us annoys us. I try and think of the last time a friend recommended that I try a brand.  Beyond FB friends hitting a ‘like’ button to win a free car, phone, holiday etc, it doesn’t take long to come up with the answer ‘never’. I wonder how the writer of this article has such a different network of friends, or if, like everyone else who pushes the miracle of social media, he just has a warehouse full of snake oil he needs to get rid of.