Chris Broadbent, Director,
Brilliant Media Manchester
As far as the Feb 2005 MPA Chinese Lunch is concerned, next year is the Year of the Rooster – well, I wonder also if it will be the year these six media truths come home to roost?
1 Death of the broadsheet?
Don’t expect a broadsheet Sun, but do expect a second tabloid section for the Daily Telegraph and a compact Guardian by the autumn. More colour everywhere will be the key for revenue growth at Associated and further down the line for News International, as the Daily Mail continues to lead the pack, fighting on all fronts as it poaches disgruntled voters away from both the compact Times and a failing Mirror, in the run-up to another Labour victory in May.
Indeed, fuelled by a re-invigorated Telegraph, the Barclay Brothers may well steal the limelight again and bid for the Trinity Mirror national titles as everyone else focuses on the London marketplace and the much awaited spat between the Express Group launch and Associated’s Metro, Evening Standard, Standard Lite, and various other permutations & combinations.
2 Do you get it weekly?
As far as magazines are concerned, stealing the march on revenue-rich monthly titles is the key for 2005, as the major groups look hard and fast at further opportunities in every sector – on the back of Nuts and Zoo this year. Expect a couple more women’s weekly titles, a weekly home interest title in the autumn and a return of the IPC big 5 (maybe not).
Open new titles, take risks and close old stagnant ones. While we are at it, we need to overhaul the old media research as well – something like the IPA Touchpoint project into the combined effects of cross-media campaigns, may help us keep pace with the fast changing market: holistic media planning, anybody?
3 Are you listening with mother?
Consolidation will continue to be the key in the rapidly changing world of commercial radio. The merger of Capital and GWR (subject to competition authorities’ approval) will be followed by Emap & SRH as well as the likely marriage of GMG to Chrysalis.
In fact, why don’t we do an ITV and have done with it? By Christmas 2005, we could be buying all our radio from one person based in Birmingham, as a virtual network digital package, while measuring the audience with an atomic wristwatch supplied by Kelvin McKenzie.
4 On ITV two years on, did anyone notice my advertising?
ITV will consolidate its position as the sole provider of high volume commercial impacts with an even greater emphasis on price premium attached to key programming. Meanwhile, Five will finally reach agreement to merge with Flextech. Channel 4 will continue diversification into spin-off public service channels in order to protect its position as a “semi-state” broadcaster. Sky, faced with the increasing Freeview threat and high City expectations, will continue very aggressive marketing to recruit and migrate the rest of us to Sky+ boxes.
None of this will matter, as punters come to realise that armed with their HDD drive, EPG (Mk II) and new technology, they can edit the commercials out. On the back of this, sponsorship may graduate into a real alternative to spot airtime
5 Digital everything – stop searching, start watching
Online, the medium of this decade, is still dominated by the crazy metrics of paid-for search. With all the research pointing to more people spending more time online and starting to really enjoy the benefits of a broadband medium, 2005 will be the year advertisers realise that there’s so much more to life than search.
Perhaps BT (or a competitor) can start piping movies-on-demand into people’s homes? We are sure that new revenues will pour in (what did we ever do without it?)
Expect Bluetooth-enabled posters to interfere with a conversation you’re trying to have on your mobile as digital media continues to encroach upon every conceivable facet of the communication mix ... and as for star-trek-style mobiles, well, we are not quite there yet with 3G technology, but give it another 12 months and the transactive medium of the future will be with us.
6 Media consolidation: get my brand a shoe-horn next Christmas!
Within the media agency community, the biggest will continue to get bigger and the smaller, well, they sadly just die of starvation, or get eaten.
Did advertisers ever stop to check whether they were getting what they wanted from their global media agency? Or were they just feeding the factory-farmed, volume-driven mega-deals of their fat buyers for another year? We predict continued growth from those of us with real giblets, the true free range independents in the market, from Brilliant, to Walker Media, who have prospered in 2004 and will continue to do so in 2005!
Now there is one to stuff the turkey with!
Mike Watson, Account Director, Iris
We started planning for this year a few months ago. We spent a bit of time thinking over new business and developing clients and each year the same issues seem to come up over and over again. We’re spending more time pitching, budgets are being cut, timescales are getting shorter. Are we becoming more service-driven than creative-driven, are we entering a culture where we are getting more demands on what we are expected to deliver outside the creative remit?
I started thinking about some examples of work that I’ve seen over the last year in the marketplace. The majority have come across as being very strong, on-brand pieces of communication with clear messages, but a few have looked diluted, inconsistent and off-brand. Over the last few years it seems we have been given shorter deadlines and smaller budgets and projects are being commissioned more on a cost basis rather than quality and experience.
As design agencies we all have a common goal of ensuring our work does the job it is intended to and has the correct identity and brand application. In some cases I think we have been too passionate about this and lose out on winning projects just because we try too hard, but it seems pointless doing what we do if we’re not making the next job more successful than the last one. On the other side of the coin, companies have talked to us about bringing their communication materials back on brand and to do the job they’re supposed to do, as in the past budgets and timescales have been too tight to allow them to commission projects in the way they would have liked.
We should be trying even harder to invest more time in understanding the relationship between agencies and clients, the commitment, accountability, quality, value and benefits of what we can offer to clients rather than forming relationships based on a reaction to instructions. If this is introduced at the early stages of the relationship, then stronger and more effective pieces of work can be produced and agencies and clients can develop stronger and more effective long-term partnerships in the future.
Danny Herbert, Planning Director, RBH
What does 2005 hold in store for the regional agency scene? Here’s a thing – I haven’t really thought about it. Why is that?
Tell you what, let’s start with what 2005 should look like. What are the main drivers of the communications world and what regional scene ought to be arising as a result?
Just a few things for Ms Client to wrestle with in 2005:
Media fragmentation. There are whole areas like experiential marketing that could now work hard for you. You could be briefing the agency to develop a microsite to push web traffic up and give your brand a new face. Should you? Or is there something else you need? Someone needs to help you decide.
The information deluge makes the need for dedicated strategic help more vital than ever. Your agencies can’t expect you to do all the thinking, leaving them with just the skateboarding frog storyboard and the press releases to knock out.
The technicalities of production (print to web) change and grow. Someone needs to be keeping on top of this. Ideally, not you. And cost pressure sits alongside deadline pressure. Good, cheap and quick?
All these pressures should long ago have given rise to a healthy regional scene. One where sizeable, talented, cost-competitive full service agencies exist in numbers in all the major conurbations where large clients exist.
They would be growing, because they offer credible planning, good creative work and can afford to genuinely work as part of a client’s team. They would have taken back, from London’s second and third division agencies, the £1m–£5m accounts that are based in their areas. Where such accounts remain in the Smoke it would be really only because the marketing director likes days out in Soho. (And he’s probably getting sacked next year, anyway.)
Accompanying them would be a swathe of clearly positioned specialist agencies including web, SP, CRM, events – with blue-chip clients, able to attract experienced staff outside London for the quality of life and the promise of no-compromise careers.
Sadly, all this resembles a Jules Verne story, doesn’t it? After five years with RBH, I’m looking out at a regional scene where there are fewer profile agencies than when I joined, not more. What happened? Answers on a postcard, please.
I guess what I’m saying is that to us here in Meriden the regional scene is a myth. We just won a big piece of business against name London agencies and another all the way up in Aberdeen. Neither client thinks of us as regional, they think of us as able.
This morning I spoke to a client middle manager whose brand is serviced in Soho (huzzah!) and who would like to use a more local agency for all the stuff he needs. From our conversation he actually means, not local as such, but easy to use, accountable, flexible and still good at ads.
That’s what clients want and here’s where the regions can excel. If we want to. It just requires management to have their sights on the right targets.
So scrap all those First Fridays, ditch our regional publicity associations that just make us look parochial, abandon your ten-year, lunch-fuelled quest to nick that local retailer from Dean or Mark, and let’s make 2005 all about clarifying and improving our offers and getting them in clients’ faces.
And while you’re at it, don’t make your offer East Anglia’s third biggest ad agency. The net has removed the geography from most of our clients’ offers, so why not remove it from ours?
Ian Muir, Agency Head, Harrison Cowley
However hard I cross my fingers I can’t promise you that the regional public relations industry will take off in 2005, that over supply will evaporate and that life will become easy, relaxed and prosperous – just as it should be.
Economists are fretting about the fundamentals in the UK weakening, and the world economy doesn’t seem poised to save us. Europe remains stuck in the economic mire as the Dollar begins to slide as the US desperately attempts to export recession.
But don’t panic: 2005 is an election year, and Gordon Brown will do his best to create a feel-good factor, pressing ahead with high government spending.
And the UK consumer is a real trooper – did you see the last YouGov survey, which showed just how unflappable the British public is at the moment – they voted the economy as no 13 on the list of things that concern them most.
The truth is that next year, like this year, like last year, will be tough. We won’t be saved by any dramatic upturn in macroeconomic fortunes – we’re just going to have to save ourselves.
Growth in the regional PR industry will only come if we are able to increase our market share in competition with London agencies for big budget clients.
Success will depend on us being able to demonstrate that regional firms can offer better service, better value and, above all, better results.
In winning this work we must persuade sophisticated decision takers that regional agencies can offer powerful, strategic teams based in the regions with a lower cost base. We must not dismiss the value of having a serious London presence for key accounts with a strong national media or public affairs element.
To succeed means being the best. To be the best, we must offer specialist, highly motivated practitioners, operating with great confidence in markets in which they have an unrivalled understanding.
Confidence and self-belief must be the watchwords for 2005. Government is prepared to find opportunities to move investment from the capital to the regions – let’s grasp this opportunity.
The core cities of the UK are a powerhouse of talent – together let’s make progress in 2005.
Jeanette Greaves, Campaign Production Director, WWAV Rapp Collins Leeds
2005 could prove a very significant year for the direct marketing industry – and the direct mail medium in particular.
After a series of false starts, 2005 finally looks like the year we will have proper competition to the Royal Mail with agreements now in place allowing companies like Deutsche Post and TPG to compete in providing direct mail services.
In theory, and hopefully in practice, this should lead to more innovative services and more price competition and also spur the Royal Mail into becoming a more dynamic and customer-focused business.
The start of the year will also see the postal services regulator, Postcomm, give its provisional ruling on whether Royal Mail will be allowed to introduce “the most significant change to the way it charges for the post since the introduction of the Penny Black” – size-based pricing.
This will see RM charge not on the basis of weight but on the basis of size and is designed to incentivise major mail users to use standard format mailings that are easier – and cheaper – for them to process.
While this will benefit some, it will also act as a tax on creativity. As mail volumes have increased so the need for “creative standout” has intensified. This is often achieved by producing mailings with unusual shapes or sizes. But under size based pricing our research has shown that postage costs on such mailings will increase by over 300 per cent in some cases.
Logically, a constant stream of standard format mailings can only affect response rates and perpetuate the “junk mail” image. It will clearly also make the medium less attractive for some clients, threatening the continuing prosperity of direct mail, which is, let’s not forget, Royal Mail’s “cash cow”.
In addition to all this, add in the usual vagaries of economic uncertainty, consumer confidence (or lack of) and a general election and 2005 promises to be anything but dull.
Jason Navon, Account Director, Fuse Digital Ltd
At the end of a busy year for the industry, with continued growth in online advertising spend, more consumers coming online and the growth of broadband and digital TV, what does 2005 hold in store for the new media industry? Perhaps the biggest challenge of 2005 will be getting to grips with site accessibility. You can’t have failed to notice the constant coverage and speculation around the provision of sites accessible to disabled users. What’s been missing is clear guidance for both clients and agencies, a situation not helped by a limited understanding of the legal requirements. The key question for businesses is simple: can you afford to prevent up to 15 per cent of the population from accessing information or purchasing your products and services? The answer is obviously no and getting your site to comply should be a question of business sense. It’s an issue that we’ve had to address across our client list from global organisations such as Greenpeace to local education providers and blue chip brands.
2004 has demonstrated that the internet is now a serious channel for selling products and it’s no longer the preserve of books, DVDs, cheap flights and music. Consumers are increasingly buying the “big ticket” items such as cameras, DVD players and TVs via the web. Figures from the retailer forum Interactive Media in Retail Group predict spending online this Christmas will total £4bn, a 64 per cent increase on 2003. One of the frustrations experienced by many online shoppers is the poor design and usability of many of these sites. People aren’t just shopping online for price or convenience but also to tap into the huge range of goods available from their desktops. In 2005 I’d like to see more focus from retailers on simplifying and enriching the purchasing process. Too often, the need for a last minute purchase means we’ll put up with some truly awful navigation or page layouts.
2005 is also likely to see an increase in spending on the newer channels: digital TV and mobile marketing. With Continental Research predicting penetration of digital TV in 15.9 million homes by Q3 2005, it’s time for “red button” campaigns to be considered by any advertiser. With evidence suggesting that consumers are more amenable to messages on this platform, it’s another no-brainer. Overall, the market in 2005 looks promising although clients are getting more demanding and expect more for their money.