Television


In case you haven’t seen them yet – there’s an early Christmas battle going on between M&S and John Lewis for who can produce the best festive advert. I say ‘battle’ but it’s been won hands down by John Lewis for this wonderful, charming story. In case you haven’t seen the M&S one, have a look, if you dare, here. It’s basically, everything that was quite clever and well executed in the collective ‘Perfect Day’ remake for Children in Need, but made bloody horrible by using the X Factor contestants. Honestly, it’s just unpleasantly “"sixth-form-project”.

One key element here, in tapping into the Christmas market, is getting the tone, sentiment, and festive spirit *just right*. What underpins all of this is the soundtrack – get that wrong, and you’re on the back foot from the off.

John Lewis have used a wonderful, understated and elegant remake of the Smiths’ classic ‘Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want’, evoking an emotional feeling in those watching it, and – if initial reaction if to be considered – making is a success and something people are sharing across social media.

The M&S advert however, has a clumsy, hard on the ears and downright unlistenable cocktail of different vocals, vocal styles, and most importantly vocal abilities. Say what you like about Frankie being apparently quite rock ‘n’ roll and meaning well, but let’s be honest, that guy CANNOT sing. He just doesn’t suit ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’.

The soundtrack is the key to associating emotion and sentiment in the brain – if you have that fixed in, the advert is memorable for the right reasons and something people want to share and comment on. Watch the ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ trailer if you don’t believe me – it’s a wonderful example.

John Lewis hit the nail on the head, but M&S has sadly missed this entirely.

*UPDATE* we told you it was all about the music – someone’s done a minor mash-up using the theme from the Shining instead. changes it somewhat….

@wonky_donky

Anyone who tells you that they remember that particular Tuesday minute-by-minute is lying. Memories are fragmented, sporadic and come in bursts. Everyone remembers the weather, funnily enough – it was simply gorgeous. At the time I was Managing Editor of Pipe Dream, the student paper at my University and Monday night was production night for the Tuesday edition, (we published twice a week). I drove the paper to printers at 3AM and managed a few hours of sleep but rolling out of bed for English Lit II.

My first class of the day started at 9:05AM, but by 8:46AM, it was clear that I wouldn’t be spending my morning discussing the religions and sexual undertones of Jane Eyre.

Shortly after the collapse of the North Tower, I headed the paper’s offices to seek solace in the comfy green sofas littered with news editors, staff writers and left over pizza from the night before. There and then we decided to put out a special edition for the next day.

I would have then phoned the printer and set to work purchasing images from Getty, but I have no recollection of either of these tasks.

I set to work planning the issue, blocking the stories and assigning reporters to cover angles of the story across campus. We had very large Muslim and Jewish communities on our campus and University administrators were worried about any clashes. I sent a reporter to go talk to the Muslim Student Union, and then phoned the President’s office to get an official comment about violence reported against Muslims on other University campuses. 

Safe and sheltered on a closed college campus, we were painfully aware of what was unfolding thanks to 24-hour news, but also frustratingly far from family and friends who were there and dealing with a very real personal tragedy – we were stuck in a parallel universe of sorts.

The University swiftly cancelled classes and invited students affected to come forward for counselling and help. Several students turned up at the Pipe Dream office seeking community and something to do. A candlelight vigil was organized for that evening.

One of our professors got in touch to ask if we were all okay and we just said, “Yes, Ma’am, we’re putting out a special issue tomorrow and are all over it”. Years later, I realized that’s not what she meant.

In the days that would follow, I think I must have gotten very little sleep. We had the Thursday paper to get out next and we focused on capturing the unfolding political sentiment right here on our doorstep.

I also had to keep our advertisers happy that we would still put out a paper. “Would we run the Thursday issue without advertisements?” Papa Johns wanted to know. Yes, because it felt it was the right thing to do. Instead, we would allow student groups to publicize counselling sessions, student vigils and chartered busses for free. I was making it up as went.

Ten years later, I think all of us on Pipe Dream must have summoned great maturity on that day. It’s still hard to make sense of the absolute flood of conflicting reports in the 24-hours that followed, and understand how a bunch of (essentially) teenagers  put a newspaper together, while coping amid all the unanswered questions; were there other targets? Where were the missing planes? Where was the President? Who was behind this? Were we safe? 

That weekend, the campus emptied out as students from the City went home in chartered buses. I drove to my parent’s house in Upstate New York. We settled into the rhythm of 24-hour news; MSNBC in the kitchen, CNN in the family room and 1010WINS in the shower.

10 years on I still think very few of us have figured out how to make sense of that day.

Hello strangers!  Or Hello familiar people that we talk to a lot in the real world but who also happen to read our blog occasionally.

Are you well?  We’re very sorry that DERTy Talk has been absent for so long.  We’re almost entirely sure you hadn’t noticed our absence, but nevertheless we. are. back.  Sort of.

There’s been a lot on of late.  Presidential visits, a footballer on the front pages, ash clouds.  Aside to all this real news, May may well go down in memory as the month we’d care to forget, which is why we didn’t bother recording it on DERTy Talk.  Adding insult to injury Mother Nature doesn’t seem to have got the memo about Bank Holidays being sunny this time round.  Tis a pity.

Anywayz.  Next week is JUNE and we will resume the ordinary, regular service of DERTy Talk.  For now we just wanted to share some actual talking from some splendid people who participated in our #SocialEnt event yesterday.  Thanks again to Gail, Jon, Matthew, Simon and Emma for taking part and for leading what was a very lively and informative discussion.  It was the highlight of the week, it’s true.

Enjoy their wisdom shared in the videos below.  Should you have missed all our other content from the event you can find it here.

This morning Edelman’s DERT team announced the results of their fifth annual survey on Value, Engagement and Trust in the Era of Social Entertainment. Gail Becker, President of Edelman’s Western U.S. Region presented the results and hosted the event along with Jon Hargreaves Managing Director of Edelman Technology in Europe and a panel of experts including; Matthew Hawn, Vice president Last.fm, Emma Barnett, Digital Media Editor, The Daily Telegraph and Simon Nelson, the Digital Business and Strategy advisor and former controller of multiplatform commissioning at the BBC.

We will be sharing the full slideshow on here later today and posting up video snippets of the event for now here are the highlights and some of our thoughts, let us know what you think.

The key stats from the survey:

· 4% of U.K. consumers feel positive about the move to a paywalled service

· 45% of people in the U.K. and 57% in the U.S. believe social networking sites are a form of entertainment

· Personal enjoyment and visual/sound quality continue to top the list of purchase drivers with “being one of the first to have new entertainment” dropping significantly (to 14%, down from 40% in the U.K. and to 17%, down from 41% in the U.S.).

· More than half (52%) of all respondents would like to use a computer to access further entertainment content, and 30% would like to be able to access that content on their mobile phone

· 49% of people in the U.K. and 52% in the U.S. believe they are spending more than a year ago with their mobile phones to access their entertainment, while 59% (U.K.) and 53% (U.S.) spent more time with their laptop

As the study revealed last year, the internet remained the second most frequently turned to form of entertainment for the second year in a row. While television remained the most frequent form of entertainment both in the U.K. and the U.S. (49% and 47% respectively), dropping 8 and 11 percent respectively since 2010.

The Internet as connective tissue

Most sources of entertainment are less used, this just means that people are spreading their consumption wider. It seems that to succeed in the era of social entertainment, entertainment companies must invest in multiple channels of distribution to enable consumers to access their content wherever and whenever. Five years ago the entertainment industry viewed the internet as a threat, but now it’s an opportunity for those same companies to monetise internet content through simple revenue models indeed the internet can be the connective tissue bringing content together.

Overwhelmingly, consumers (84% in the U.K.) feel negatively about the move from free to paid entertainment services. The survey also reveals that paywalls created by entertainment sources for previously free services are being met with feelings of frustration and distrust by users. Some cite the lack of improvement in quality of service, while others state they would suspect a profit motive driven by greed.

The study also delivers insights on how content providers can try to overcome feelings of distrust about paywalls by delivering value in other ways. 87% of U.K. respondents consider visual and sound quality important in making their entertainment purchasing decisions and nearly half (47% in the U.K.) consider the number of devices with which they can access the entertainment.

The DERTy types at Edelman (that’s those of us who work in the Digital Entertainment, Rights and Technology practice) are gearing up for the launch of this year’s study:  Value, Engagement and Trust in the era of Social Entertainment.  We go live tomorrow so watch this space…

But what do you remember most about the entertainment landscape if you think back to 2007? We thought it would be interesting, ahead of releasing the new findings, to take a look back at the headline stats from the last five years.  Wow how far we’ve come…. Early studies were dominated by the debates around illegal file sharing, how much consumers were willing to pay for content and the emerging power of social networks.  In some ways a lot has changed – and in other ways nothing has.

We should add that the methodology for the study has changed a little across the five years as we’ve grown to look at a wider pool of consumers in the UK and US.  So a statistician wouldn’t be happy about comparing year on year.  However – we think this little slideshow gives a nice little summary of the evolution of the sector.  If you’d like to know more about each specific year, what was asked and who was asked, then please just drop us a note in the comment section.  You can see last year’s findings here.

If you can’t attend the event tomorrow, you can still take part by using the hastag #SocialEnt.  You can also have a listen to our podcast last week, with Matt Locke, Richard Sambrook and Luke Mackay, which sets up some of the themes of tomorrow’s study.

UK Times journalist Rod Liddle can barely hide is contempt for Twitter and its proponents who claim to be “changing the World in 140 characters”.  Liddle is referring to the uncompromising (sometimes pompous) pronouncements made by politicians to various leaders of the Libyan government:
• “My message to Saif Qadhafi today: violence we are seeing against the Libyan people is unacceptable” (@WilliamJHague; UK Foreign Minister) 
“Great honour to Egypt today. People Power has forced regime change. Needs equal focus and discipline to bring in something better” (@DMiliband; ex UK Foreign Minister)

Given that these messages appear aimed directly at the regime of another country; I wonder if Twitter is the most appropriate medium. 

“I tried to see if ol’ Saif had responded online to this stinging rebuke — perhaps with an ‘Oh, bugger me, you’re quite right, William — we’ll call off the bombings and relinquish power immediately’. But no luck. Saif probably tweets under a different name,” muses Liddle of Hague´s message.

“ . . one assumes the bloodied and determined Egyptian democrats stopped in their tracks at this important missive and immediately gathered together to thrash out a more disciplined and focused approach to social change. Thank you, David — valuable advice. Please go on,” he adds with respect to Milliband´s words of encouragement. 

In the most blatant example of ‘bigging up’ the medium, Rio Ferdinand, Manchester United and England football captain, claimed that he and other Twitter users “are involved (if not directly)in a powerful #movement ! …” (@rioferdy5).

With all due respect Rio . . . . we are not. We are simply exchanging opinions on football, the state of your back injury, Man Yoo’s failed attempt to rebuff a rejuvenated Liverpool FC this weekend, quite how Ferguson continues to flout broadcast regulations, and how he is turning into Kevin The Teenager.

And here is the shame . . . . As a social media platform Twitter can provide a valuable and unique support for those looking to deliver the most sensitive message to the most specific of audiences; the key is that Twitter not just about the Tweet.

The Twitter platform can provide a wealth of information about a particular audience, where it meets, what subjects it cares about, with what frequency and style it communicates, who are the idea starters, who are the amplifiers.  It can also provide this level of detail about a subject or theme; who is leading the discussion, do these people remain constant or does leadership vary over time or cyclically, on what other platforms are these themes addressed (traditional media, blogs, other communities, physical meetings etc)?  Tools such as Edelman’s TweetLevel can deliver analysis by audience or theme, level of engagement, the trust or authority associated with each contributor, all of which can be broken down on the basis of geography or language.

This powerful insight can be delivered without the necessity of making a single Tweet.  The shame being that for many – from Rod Liddle to Rio Ferdinand – Twitter simply means Tweeting. 

And this misapprehension gives social media in general a bad name because it assumes that – in the final analysis – everything can and should be broken down to 140 characters; which is really missing the point. 

In some instances Twitter may be the most appropriate medium on which to communicate or participate in dialogue with a given audience; but in others it is wholly inappropriate.  Perhaps discreet diplomatic channels would have been more appropriate method of influencing the Libyan regime (telephone calls, summits, relationship meetings, official (confidential) memos etc).  Government to government communication via Twitter just seems wrong in this context.

However, the insight that platforms such as Twitter can provide into a target audience or theme remains both invaluable but all too often neglected.   This analysis should help define how a given message can be credibly delivered whether through face to face meetings, traditional media, telephone calls, roundtables, third party events, blogs, conferences, or – indeed – a Twitter feed. 

A final word to those Twitter incontinents out there; to “use Twitter” does not necessarily mean to “Tweet”.

@RogerDara

# # #

To clear this up immediately: no, I am not proposing a return to the era of 1920s Chicago with its ban on alcohol and preponderance of illicit “speakeasy” bars.

The following is a list of habits and behaviours which I would ban if I could; and whose prohibition, I believe, would make the world of pan European PR coordination a far more effective and agreeable place to work. I would be very interested to hear feedback from both sides of the curtain (“coordinator” and “coordinated”) on whether you recognize or could add to this list…

1. The coordination “Cockney” – just because I was born within the Bow bells of London  may make me a Cockney, but it does not mean that I possess the skills and sensitivities to manage multiple markets. Being a native English speaker has many benefits (English remains the “lingua franca” for business in most of Europe), but pan European coordination requires many other skills and experience

2. Unacknowledged success. A half page article in the Financial Times may not be the only definition of success; coordination teams who ignore or discount local achievements are doing themselves and their network a disservice. ‘What does this radio slot mean to the local market’? ‘How long has the team been pitching this vertical title typically dominated by the competition’? ‘What does this endorsement from a powerful local blogger mean’? As Shakespeare noted about the quality of mercy, such acknowledgements are “twice blessed”; to the coordinator and the coordinated.

3. Forgetting who actually does the work. The most amazing, compelling and creative PR plan in the world would remain just that – a plan – without the support of the local markets; they are the ones whose role it is to implement. It is their local market and media knowledge, their relationships, their long hours and good humour that bring the plans to life and generate the results against which we are all measured.

4. Ill conceived conference calls. Has humanity ever wasted so much time as the hours spent on interminable conference calls which are not preceded by an agenda, have no relevance or call to action for participants and no follow up summary? Think of the things we could have done with that time . . . . I for one could have learnt Chinese, recreated the Sistine Chapel in my bathroom or, even, updated my timesheets with all the time spent on meaningless calls. Keep calls regular (not ad hoc), keep them brief (30 mins max) and ensure that they are “sandwiched” by an agenda and a follow up note.

5. The surfer´s voice. If coordination teams are guilty of conference call inflation (increasing ubiquity matched by decreasing value), countries are sometimes guilty of “multi tasking”. There is nothing more irritating that presenting over the phone against a chorus of keyboards typing, alerts sounding , lunch orders being taken. In terms of distraction, this is the equivalent of trying to deliver a presentation in a nightclub complete with pumping music, strobe lighting and dry ice. Keep calls to a minimum but make them count.

6. Clichés and Colloquialisms. Let’s “hunker down” and plan for the “end game”; if we bring our “A game” it will be a “slam dunk”. Apart from being incomprehensible (even to a native English speaker), this type of dialogue simply reveals a paucity of clear thought and is wide open to misinterpretation and confusion. Genuinely clear thought is typified by language and terminology which can be understood in any country.

7. Focusing on what can’t be done instead of what can. I appreciate that this type of response can be culturally driven and a way to manage (central) expectations, but I have found that focusing on the negative can be self-fulfilling and destructive. “There will be strikes planned for this day . . . it is a Bank holiday weekend . . . there is not local customer reference . . the journalists do not speak English . . . we have no local spokesperson . . . .” These may all be legitimate observations, however, a focus on what could be achieved given these constraints is far more effective and fulfilling. “Given the above, we could propose an exclusive with one English speaking journalist . . we would propose embargoed meetings with trusted press to provide them with time to prepare . . . we would position the story in the context of a local competitor. . . we would research some local market data to add context . . . etc.”

8. “Yes but that will not work in my market . . . .” see above.

You make recognize a few of these; once again they are not behaviours I regularly see in my agency, however I’d love to hear about your “prohibitions” and how they would implore the world of pan European coordination.

@RogerDara

Can content ever be country neutral? Meaning, can an idea or concept be equally relevant and meaningful in multiple markets at the same time?

I believe that the answer is yes. That doesn’t mean that the concept has to be interpreted in exactly the same way; “football” means different things in the UK and the US but it is still meaningful and relevant to its respective audience. The Eurovision Song Contest is another example of individual countries’ image of popular song can vary quite markedly.

However, the concept of Eurovision remains consistent across Europe; a popular song content not taken entirely seriously where international “favours” are exchanged during the course of an interminable voting procedure.

I recently participated in a training exercise within our agency including teams from 15 countries charged with launching a “St Valentines” mobile phone specifically for the female market. The challenge was to develop a central idea or concept which could drive local activities in five other EMEA markets. The idea was not that each market´s activities simply replicated each other, but that they each applied their twist to the central concept to make it meaningful and relevant to their market. In essence – like the Eurovision Song Contest – while the contest remains central, the songs themselves can be quite different (in fact, they should be – that’s the point of Eurovision!).

The secret, of course, is the central concept (or “strategic framework” as PR people sometimes call it). This concept is required to reflect the business proposition (the benefits or selling points of the product or service) but also be resilient enough to withstand localization (literally, turning and fine-tuning) by markets from Abu Dhabi to Aberdeen without losing meaning.

Our Valentine Phone contest generated some immensely powerful ideas; in many cases the teams didn’t realize quite how powerful there were. Here is a selection:

· “Women reveal the secrets of multi-tasking” – building on the phone multiple features (including a pocket mirror); this idea potentially could work in any market, there is an element of humour and women anywhere could relate to it (women think they can multi task more effectively than men (as centuries of child rearing would demonstrate)). This concept lends itself to all types of competitions, challenges, discussions, dialogue in any language or location imaginable

· Discover your secret “Femme Fatale”:  Another fun idea which could work multi-market, nice element of humour also; perfectly mapping to the phone positioning. Which woman has never dreamt of being a femme fatal in any country, any culture . . . just for a day?

· Lady Gaga flash mob: pure genius, really simple, relevant to the phone, inexpensive and fun. In reality this is a tactic rather than a strategic framework, but it has the beauty of simplicity and directness. You can just see this spontaneous choreography happening from the Gare du Nord to Red Square!

· Countless faces of love: this would generate conversations and dialogue in any market; solid idea worth developing; love whatever it looks like is really in the eye of the beholder. Another amazing strong concept that would easily stand the test of country localization.

These ideas can only really be developed and tested in a multi-country environment (teams paired up across borders for the above exercise), but when they are developed, such ideas are – literally – priceless.

@RogerDara

The soap opera goes all X Factor.I discovered today that the popular UK TV soap opera, EastEnders, will actually change one of its storylines in response to a barrage of complaints from viewers. The storyline in question referred to the cot death of a baby whose mother attempts to switch for a healthy one. The scenario caused outrage amongst parents, support groups and campaigners; over 10,000 complaints have been received to date.

I know all this from reading this morning´s Spanish press. El Pais relates who various scenes have had to be reshot to accommodate the replacement storyline, including footage which was actually diffused during the New Year edition.

I´m not exactly sure how this historical revisionism will be undertaken in practice (will it all be a dream a la “Dallas”?)

ahhh. it was all a dream. clever.

or whether it represents the first stage of X Factor-style scripting where viewers elect their preferred plotlines.

What I find more alarming is the fact that people still consider soap operas to be somehow a genuine reflection or comment on real life. They are no such thing; nor they should not be. They are pure escapism. While the lives portrayed in Dallas or Dynasty were based on unlimited luxury and beauty, EastEnders seems to thrive on precisely the opposite: misery and squalor.

I must confess that my impression of the latter is defined purely by the two Christmas edition specials to which I´m subjected once a year when I visit my family in the UK (each producing a body count comparable to Zulu or Full Metal Jacket; I´m referring to the Christmas specials not my family, although Christmas can be tense!).

This “soap opera as a reflection of true life” perspective and the protests around EastEnders´ cot death storyline, suggest that people are actually using such programmes as a form of education, to inform themselves about current affairs and generate or influence a particular point of view.

Such as situation would be as alarming as it is absurd, bringing to mind one episode of the cartoon series the Simpsons. On receiving news that Bart has been caught shop lifting, Homer laments his son´s lack of respect for law and order; “Why do you think I took you to all those Police Academy movies? For fun? Well, I didn’t hear anybody laughing. Did you!?”.

@RogerDara

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