Reader's Round-Up: The November Issues

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The Drum Network's Reader's Round-Up, gives Drum Network members the opportunity to have their say on the hot topics featured in The Drum's fortnightly magazine.

November saw The Drum focus on Do It Day, the most impressive and ambitious event the company has taken on to date, challenging marketers to change the world in a day. The Do It Day issue was followed appropriately by the latest issue of the mag, ‘Marketing’s Awakening’ focusing on the important, taboo subjects within marketing that need to be talked about to promote social change. Drum Network members comment below on the power of marketing, social, CSR and empathy...

CSR and marketing: the chicken or the egg?

Nick Livermore, marketing manager at Digital Visitor, comments on 'CSR and marketing: the chicken or the egg?' which focuses on the main findings of the CSR panel at Do It Day, made up of CSR experts from Dixons Carphone, Kesah Trowell, Barclays' Jeanette Lloyd and Millenial Media's Stephen Jenkins.

When it comes to advertising, I’ve never been sure whether to release the sceptic inside or trust that, fundamentally, the impetus behind campaigns has moved on in the last 10 years.

Until recently, the former was my default approach. The thought that, at its foundation, all marketing must have one unifying goal; and that goal is commercial. Secure in that knowledge, I let my inner sceptic roam unchecked.

The thing is, absolute truths are very rare indeed. And, recently, I’ve come to realise that there’s always an alternative. In this case, Barclays’, Jeanette Lloyd, highlights it well. Promoting CSR can be, if approached properly, used to further initiatives without conscious thought of commercial benefit.

That’s not to say, of course, that all cause or justification for scepticism has been resolved, but reason has to kick in at a certain point.

But what does this mean for brands? Well, even if it wasn’t bad enough already, exploitation of CSR for purely commercial gains surely must be avoided. By and large, consumers remain blind to the uglier side of CSR, but this will begin to change.

On the flipside, it’s vital to maintain a grasp on the realities of marketing; brand advertising exists to make money. It’s something we’re all aware of, no matter our cause or drive. As Barclays has demonstrated, however, it’s possible to be aware of that, move it to one side and allow advertising to feed into an initiative more than it does a corporate bank account.

Ad Epic Apathy

Apathetic? I am, but I’ve been apathetic since day 1. Still, you can’t deny the brilliance of the John Lewis advert, which for me doesn’t lie in its ability to sell, sell, sell. What it’s done to exceptional effect is position itself as the new harbinger of Christmas. No longer do us Brits look to the Coca-Cola van.

Clearly, apathy hasn’t infected the majority of the British public. I’ve never much cared for it, but given the widespread anticipation for the 2015 ad, not everyone is a cold-hearted cynic like me. And apathetic though I may be, the John Lewis advert still defines the start of my Christmas shopping season. Very clever.

That’s not to say, of course, that apathy couldn’t come around sooner or later. If John Lewis drops the ball in 2016, then who’s to say what will happen in 2017? An all-action thriller set on the snowy peaks of an unknown Chilean mountain with Jeff Goldblum as the protagonist perhaps?

I would say, however, that the UK public only have room in their hearts for one tear jerker. For me, that explains the shift from other retailers. John Lewis has got the hearts of the British consumer on lock down.

But that doesn’t mean other approaches don’t work – Aldi has shown that quite capably. But it isn’t their ‘Favourite Things’ advert that really got me; it was their hilarious spoof on the John Lewis advert that caught my attention. Seriously, go and have a peek; reactive advertising at its brilliant best. OAP and all.

Jennifer Keywood, head of marketing, Paprika

Jennifer Keywood, head of marketing at Paprika Software comments on the power of social in reply to Benny Wallington's of Kritical Mass, 'Our Monday was more productive than your Monday'.

Social media, social sharing and increased connectivity have changed the frequency, speed and global reach of marketing today. I was lucky enough to hear Neil Kleiner, Head of Social, Golin, speak at this year’s PRCA National Conference. I was shocked to learn that 60% of all their content is unplanned to ensure it continues to be agile and instantly reactive. He went on to reveal that ‘unplanned content’ goes from concept through to sign-off within 30 minutes. Although the content itself cannot be classed as ‘world changing’, their process is. What Golin are achieving within just half an hour puts what is really possible within 24 hours into perspective. With that in mind and after observing the instantaneous global social media outpour following the tragic Paris attacks, it’s clear that the platforms and tools needed by marketers to change the world in just one day already exist.

Front of mind

Phil Aiston, digital strategy executive at HPS Group replies to 'Front of Mind' about Facebook's new Notify platform in the latest issue of The Drum, 'Marketing's Awakening'.

Notify is a fantastic opportunity for content publishers to beat the AdBlockers. Although at present, dynamic ads aren’t available, it’s better to been in static form, than not at all. Ultimately, things like Notify and Instant Articles make things easier for the user. People generally don’t want to leave the Facebook environment when they’re browsing there, and anything that’s a win for the user’s experience should be seriously looked at.

My main concern is for ‘the little guy’. Whilst this option is perfectly viable for the likes of the aforementioned BuzzFeed and New York Times, I highly doubt local press publications will be able to afford to appear in this position. Small scale publishers are very shortly going to be stuck between a rock and a hard place; on the one hand, they’ll need to spend budget on teams or individuals who can get to grips with using walled environments such as Notify, or see a steady loss of revenue from the increase of AdBlocking adoption. In the UK there is currently a 21% adoption of AdBlocking, rising to 41% when you look at 18-29 year olds, I can’t think of any industry that can absorb that kind of revenue loss for very long.

Ultimately the reader loses out here, inadvertently cutting off their nose to spite their face. It could be seen that the cost of installing AdBlocking software is ultimately that you’ll lose out on small scale, local journalism in place of cash rich media conglomerates. Don’t expect to see your local paper as a content option in the Notify app once it hits our shores.

Eleanor Drew, senior content strategist, ORM

Eleanor responds to 'Ad Epic Apathy' in the latest issue.

A piece in November’s issue of The Drum posed the question ‘Are we tiring of the John Lewis’ ad epic?’ with its ‘tried and tested creative formula’ for Christmas TV ads.

Since this article ran, Aldi, with tongue lodged firmly in cheek, released a parody of the Man on the Moon advert. With a cheeky glint in his eye, Aldi’s interstellar pensioner compares the prices of telescopes at John Lewis and Aldi, before training the telescope’s eye on Jean, the saucy pensioner made famous by Aldi adverts in 2011 for her fondness of gin. Just as the little girl’s gift of a telescope reaches the Man on the Moon by balloon power in the John Lewis ad, in the Aldi version it is Jean who is borne aloft by multi-coloured balloons, armchair and all.

A canny marketing move, the parody has received coverage in the mainstream media, and on social channels, racking up over 1.5 million YouTube views in the 2 days since it was released. One suspects that the team behind the ad had predicted another saccharine offering from John Lewis, and had been poised to create their own, or perhaps when they saw Man on the Moon, they were simply unable to resist. Either way, it’s a great example of a brand acting fast to create content which works because it’s topical; a trend which began with Oreo’s dunking in the dark tweet during the Super Bowl back in 2013, and has caused a shift in the way we think about content planning. Smart brands still plan ahead with a well-crafted editorial calendar, but they are also agile enough to react quickly, and seize topical opportunities as they arise.

So while John Lewis trades on schmaltz, Aldi appeals to the part of us that finds our own weakness for such sentimentality a little bit ridiculous. Ironically though (and perhaps unintentionally), it’s Aldi that gives us the happier ending. While John Lewis bestows a telescope on the Man on the Moon so he can watch others enjoy Christmas, Aldi gives him the gift of companionship. Would you rather spend Christmas day alone, peering at earthlings through your telescope, or having a party with gin-loving Jean? I know which I’d prefer.

An end to in-store fights?

Andy Boothroyd, business development director at HPS Group discusses the end of 'Black-Eye' Friday in response to 'An End to In-Store Fights?'

Black Friday is supposed to mark the day that retailers in US go into the black. Last year, in the UK, it was more a case of consumers going into the black……with bruising caused by all the punch-ups over the best offers.

Critics say Black Friday serves no purpose in the UK. Evidence suggests that rather than generating extra sales, shoppers simply delay spending in October or bring forward planned purchases from December.

For this reason, perhaps, many retailers reassessed their approach this year. For instance, we saw some stores scale back on the bigger ticket discounts but spreading these across a wider range, as well as extending the discounts so there was less pressure on the consumer to spend Friday frantically chasing bargains.

So quiet was it in-store that, at one point, there seemed to be more camera crews and reporters on Oxford Street than actual shoppers.

At several Currys stores where we had staff working on Friday, there were no more than 25 shoppers queuing for bargains before the store opened their doors at 6am. The feedback from store managers suggested people had opted for the click and collect service, so they could pick up in store later in the day.

But even though footfall on the day was down 8% from last year, web traffic was up 16% as shoppers opted to dodge the punches to set new overall spending records for Black Friday in the UK.

It is clear retailers have learnt some valuable lessons and their efforts to quell the chaotic scenes from last year seem to have paid off. It remains to be seen where retailers will go with it next year, but as John Roberts of AO said ‘The genie is firmly out of the bottle and customers have voted for Black Friday with their credit cards’.

So how long before the next overseas shopping trend hits these shores? China’s Singles day in November already dwarfs Black Friday as the world’s biggest shopping day of the year. Watch this space…..

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