Welcome to McCann's blog, where our brightest minds share their views on popular culture, advertising, technology, business innovation and ideas that matter.

Consumer Insight: The decline of the traditional middleman

14 Aug 2015
 

Ever felt ill and checked your symptoms on webMD? Congratulations. You’re part of a movement that’s taking freedom of choice and cutting out the middlemen.

First wave brands like Uber and AirBnb are hamstringing taxi firms, hotels, and holiday providers but in what unexpected places will the middleman lose out?

In B2C, relationships are becoming more personal. In China, individuals / co-ops are buying FMCG products in bulk direct from brands. It raises questions for brands: How to approach marketing-spend, logistics, and relationships with agencies?

For service enterprises, Elance’s two million freelancers, allow rapid expansion and contraction depending on need. Logistic start-up Lalamove has enough to take on big firms – No union, no health insurance and an estimated $0.90/mile

Further down the food chain, a horde of new entrants, like video game maker No Man’s Sky, can prove capability and open up access to capital in a far shorter time through crowd-funding.

For those traditional middlemen, how will their leadership adapt to this rapid rate of change?

ALT: For those traditional middlemen, adapting to this rapid change will begin at the top.

Ever felt ill and checked your symptoms on webMD? Congratulations. You’re part of a movement that’s taking freedom of choice and cutting out the middlemen. First wave brands like Uber and AirBnb are hamstringing taxi firms, hotels, and holiday providers but in what unexpected places will the middleman lose out?…

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The doctor will see you now

14 Aug 2015
 

This one is for all the people who have ever been nervous about picking up the phone, or booking an appointment to see the doctor. A recent survey of 4,500 Americans found that people are not only using Facebook to order their favorite pizza, it found that a surprising 37% emailed their G.P and 18% contacted their doctor, via Facebook.

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This figure follows the recent trend of consumers interacting with brands on channels that they use regularly and already feel comfortable on. We’re beginning to see a change in the role and legitimacy of social media as a communication tool. A man in America demonstrated this change after he begged his local council to fix a broken pipe, in 1990. The matter wasn’t resolved until this year, some 25 years later when he created a Facebook page warning of the dangers of broken pipes. It took a matter of hours before it caught the attention of the towns Mayor and it was fixed two days after.

This story highlights the legitimate role that Facebook plays in the life of the everyday consumer. Surprisingly a recent survey showed that larger brands still only engaged with 37% of all consumers’ posts on their page. The days when brands can ignore social media and emerging channels as a legitimate method of communication are quickly disappearing and with it savvy and modern brands are emerging as the winners.

This one is for all the people who have ever been nervous about picking up the phone, or booking an appointment to see the doctor. A recent survey of 4,500 Americans found that people are not only using Facebook to order their favorite pizza, it found that a surprising 37%…

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Fear of illness – are we going too far?

14 Aug 2015
 

If you could know exactly how many people in your neighbourhood were sick or infected, would you want to know? Well if you do there is now an app for that. A growing number of people are indulging their hypochondriac traits by turning to apps like HEALTHYDAY from Johnson & Johnson. The app uses sickness-searching algorithms to take the guesswork out of your hypochondria by warning you when the flu is overtaking your neighbourhood or pollen is driving allergies sky-high.

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This app takes data from local doctor’s offices, Google searches, social media mentions on Twitter, Facebook and user data from people who access the app. It then funnels down the information into easily digestible trends, blurbs and infographics to let you know who around you is sick and how likely to get sick you are.

Many believe apps like HEALTHYDAY create a new way for brands to reach through the clutter as a kind of subtle advertising. The app suggests basic health tips that are “brought to you by” companies like Zyrtec and Tylenol.

Knowing this information, brands can look to communicate content to consumers on platforms that attract a highly targeted and engaged market.

If you could know exactly how many people in your neighbourhood were sick or infected, would you want to know? Well if you do there is now an app for that. A growing number of people are indulging their hypochondriac traits by turning to apps like HEALTHYDAY from Johnson &…

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Politics in the age of Truth – by Karl Bates

05 Sep 2013
 

karl_bates_150sqpx_blogAs we hurtle towards polling day on 7 September, the expectations of the Australian voting public are mirroring the mood of voters in other countries – revealing interesting insights into the recipe for political success.

The most pertinent trend is the increasingly fraught relationship between truth and politics – two words rarely used in the same sentence any more – which has become even more complex in today’s intensive political communications environment. This insight and others emerged in a recent ‘Truth About Politics’ study conducted by McCann New York among respondents in the US, UK and India, which found that 72% of people agreed with the statement: “When it comes to politics, it is impossible to find the truth these days.”

In Australia, the emergence of fact-checking websites such as PolitiFact and the ABC’s FactCheck, and their revelation that the majority of statements made by politicians on both sides are false, is a timely reaction to the rise of political spin. This belief by the public that there is little or no truth in politics has led many voters to hold politicians in rather low regard. Asked to rank different professions in order from least to most truthful, respondents to the ‘Truth About Politics’ study placed politicians in the untruthful pile along with car salesmen, bankers and advertising executives.

It’s no different in Australia. Roy Morgan’s Image of Professions 2013 survey, which asks respondents to rate professions based on honesty and ethical standards, also ranks politicians at the bottom of the heap, just above car salesmen, ad men and real estate agents.

For the 62% of consumers in the global survey (and 67% in the US) who said politicians were less truthful today that they were 20 years ago, the top reasons for politicians’ perceived lack of truth were thought to be because ‘they think they can get away with it / there are no penalties’ and ‘they do /say anything to get elected’. Some food for thought for Australian pollies was the discovery that the more an issue is seen as fundamental to a campaign, the less consumers believe politicians are telling the truth about that issue.

In general – and this is true across the globe – there is a hunger among consumers to bring back more truth to politics. Seventy-five percent of consumers globally said they’d even give up a personal pleasure (chocolate, sex, alcohol, magazines or reality TV) for a month, if it would make the politicians in their country more honest. Yet despite this hunger for change, the ‘Truth About Politics’ study detected a sense of resignation among some consumers, almost as if getting the truth from politicians was too much to expect.

The majority of people, however, are looking to the internet for the truth they believe is lacking in politicians. In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the internet is bringing a new degree of transparency to politics and all areas of public life, with research respondents claiming online research has made it easier to discover the truth about political claims – or indeed about any marketing claims.

Interestingly, while 74% of consumers globally felt their social media feed was balanced when it came to political posts, the majority of people still turn to TV news more than any other medium for political coverage. It would seem that while social media is a popular source of breaking news, people then flip to television for more robust coverage.

In Australia, polling by Essential Research shows that 63% of voters get a lot or some of their information about politics from commercial television news and current affairs, followed by newspapers and news websites (61%). On the trust stakes, ABC and SBS news come out on top, with 67% of voters saying they have a lot or some trust in the public broadcasters.

For marketers, the lesson here is the thirst for truth. The top things people say they want from politicians – to understand the lives of ordinary people; strong values; and to always tell the truth – are the same things they want from brands.

While politicians are under intense scrutiny every three years in Australia, brands must meet this standard with consumers every day. Welcome to the age of Truth.

As we hurtle towards polling day on 7 September, the expectations of the Australian voting public are mirroring the mood of voters in other countries – revealing interesting insights into the recipe for political success. The most pertinent trend is the increasingly fraught relationship between truth and politics – two…

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Is Twitter social media’s gift to the written word? – by John Mescall

01 Sep 2013
 

John Mescall BioWhen we had to write assignments at school and university, the battle always seemed to be figuring out how to stretch a very small idea or premise into something of sufficient length to meet the mandated 1500 words.

This always felt like a kind of punishment to me; having a premise that could successfully be communicated with clarity and purpose in just a hundred or so words, yet being forced to find ways to string it out lest I be punished with the kind of poor mark that would have the teacher express how disappointed he/she was in me.

(Is there any feedback worse than disappointment? You’d rather apoplectic rage over that.)

And, for the most part it was definitely all about stringing it out. I know in theory we were being taught to expand upon our arguments, but I suspect a good percentage of those 1500 words were little more than filler. The kind of waffle you’d expect from someone with very little talent who lucked upon a gig where they are getting paid by the word.

So schools turned out successive generations of people who were trained in the art of saying less with more. That’s why I really, really, really love Twitter. I love it more than any other social medium by a long way. Because writing something passable, let alone remarkable, in fewer than 140 characters, takes some serious effort and skill.

Of course, most tweets are rubbish. Just like most of anything that isn’t filtered or edited is rubbish. But if you follow the right people, Twitter is a joy. Out there are people who use Twitter for more than just retweeting buzzfeed, or tweeting links to longer format pieces. Some people can say everything that needs to be said about an issue in just a dozen or so words.

We used to call these people advertising copywriters. The art of saying much in just a few words used to be the preserve of our industry, and it was a skill you had to learn on the job, over time (remembering that your school years left you very ill-prepared for such an endeavour).

Good (proper) writers also possess this skill, and that’s what separates the good from the hacks: the ability to say more with less. So it heartens me that Twitter is perhaps training an entire generation in the fine art of brevity. Text messaging may well have visited all kinds of linguistic horrors upon us lolz, but perhaps Twitter will be social media’s gift to the written word.

Read The Onion’s tweets: look at the way they can often capture the absurdity of a political debate in eight words. Others not so famous but still worth following manage to encapsulate the tiny joys and humiliations of the human condition in their regular 140-character observations.

It’s heartening. Maybe the next generation of advertising writers will be as good as Tim Delaney, whose headline for Timberland ‘First we stole their land, their buffalo and their women. Then we went back for their shoes’ is, in my humble opinion, the finest ever written. (I’m discounting ‘Lemon’ only because I see it more as a perfect idea perfectly expressed in a single word. That’s cheating, I know.)

Kids learning to communicate via Twitter will develop the ability to express themselves clearly and with brevity. And the best of them will add wit, charm and humour to the mix. Making them the perfect target for talent-hungry agencies. God knows, we have a shortage of talented writers.

And on that note, isn’t it great that writing is back? That the awful fad of the big visual, three-word strapline, tiny logo ad is now only to be seen when agencies are trying to scam their way to success in the ever-shrinking ‘print’ category at awards shows?

The shift from paid to earned, owned and shared has driven us towards a content model. And content generally needs to be well written. By people who can actually write; you know, write more than three words underneath a logo.

Writing is back. And it’s a wonderful thing.

When we had to write assignments at school and university, the battle always seemed to be figuring out how to stretch a very small idea or premise into something of sufficient length to meet the mandated 1500 words. This always felt like a kind of punishment to me; having a…

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The good, the bad and the weird – by John Mescall

14 Aug 2013
 

John-MescallI say this without casting aspersions on anyone I work with, or have ever worked with, but I think it helps if you’re a little mad. Maybe even more than a little mad. Maybe ‘lock up your children’ levels of unsettling oddness is what I’m talking about here.

Sure, on the surface most of us appear quite normal. But I don’t know if we’re normal at all. Because working in the creative department in an advertising agency isn’t really a job for anyone who wants a normal kind of existence.

You know those occasionally recurring nightmares you have about school or university exams? Ten, 20 years later the dread and panic of The Great Exam comes back to haunt you, it was that traumatic.

Well, imagine never really leaving those exams behind. Imagine doing them every week for the rest of your life. Because that’s what making ads is like: the blank piece of paper that must be filled with something good enough to score you a certain mark. And if you fail, undeniably terrible things will happen to you.

Answering a brief. Presenting your answer. Being judged on the quality of your answer. And without the luxury of a single multiple-choice exam in sight: everything an essay.

If that doesn’t drive you a little mad, then surely you were a little mad to begin with. I think you need a particular type of personality to cope and even thrive in that environment. And I think that personality is known as ‘weird’.

But there’s good weird and bad weird. I once (briefly) worked with a writer who used to sit underneath his desk while wearing white cotton gloves. The gloves were for his paper allergy (a writer with a paper allergy) and the under-his-desk was because his mind worked better when he felt cocooned. That’s bad weird, and you can’t be bad weird because it makes everyone feel uncomfortable about their own latent weirdness; shines a light on it. Brings it out into the open. So he had to go. And I’m not so sure that paper allergy was genuine, either.]

Good weird, on the other hand, allows us to remain functional in an environment that would likely drive the perfectly normal person to the brink. Good weird lets us take rejection and makes us stronger. Think of ideas for cat food with all the passion others might reserve for their Magnum Opus. Good weird lets us survive the exquisitely sadistic torture of focus groups.

I’m actually surprised that an agency creative (at least to the best of my knowledge) has yet to go postal on a focus group. Watching them maim your ideas is like watching someone calmly run a key across the bonnet of your brand new car. Only the person with the key is in the right, and you’re in the wrong.

Good weird drives art directors to still be at the agency long after everyone else has gone home, because they’re driven to make tiny improvements that few people will ever notice. Good weird makes for writers who will never be really happy with anything they ever do. Ever. So, naturally, the chance at fulfilment will have to come from the next thing.

Good weird means that you may never feel entirely comfortable with pre-meeting small talk, but very comfortable with the blank page at 10pm. Good weird means that, long after you’ve proven yourself, you still feel the desperate need to prove yourself. Why? Ask Freud, I’ll bet he knows.

Good weird is a good thing. No, it’s a great thing. So here’s to all the good weird people in our business. It just wouldn’t be the same without you.

I say this without casting aspersions on anyone I work with, or have ever worked with, but I think it helps if you’re a little mad. Maybe even more than a little mad. Maybe ‘lock up your children’ levels of unsettling oddness is what I’m talking about here. Sure, on…

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