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ATTENSHUN! // Greening OOH // Weird KFC // ...and a plea to Mike Soutar

07 Oct 2019  |  Dominic Mills 
ATTENSHUN! // Greening OOH // Weird KFC // ...and a plea to Mike Soutar

It's complex, but adding ‘attention strategies’ to campaigns will be worth it, writes Dominic Mills. Plus: Clear Channel greening its estate like Kermit; Ogilvy's wedding chicken bucket; and a mission for the new Evening Standard boss

Later this week I’ll be chairing a Magnetic Spark session at the Festival of Marketing on the subject of attention.

Attention is, of course, one of the drums that Magnetic has been beating on behalf of its magazine brand stakeholders. It’s the subject of a big push to advertisers and agencies since — clearly — attention is one of the strongest cards magazines can play, folding in as it does to other magazine brand attributes such as trust, relevance and ‘me time’.

Magnetic lays out its cards here.

Standing back for a moment to look at the bigger picture, this focus on attention is part of a wider trend among the media community — buyers and sellers alike — to supplement (or re-introduce, since they were the norm once) — the mania for numbers-driven, audience-chasing media spending with more considered approaches that take into account things like context.

Of course it makes absolute sense. Studies by Neuro-Insight show that attention is the gateway to long-term memory encoding, which in turn drives recall and then acts as a reliable indicator of propensity for action.

It makes you think: why did the media community ever lose sight of such things? There’s a good piece by Mediacom’s Steve Gladdis here which touches on these broader changes. And attention itself is clearly an idea gaining ground, as this work, phase one of two, from Dentsu Aegis on what it calls ‘the Attention Economy’ shows.

That is not to say that factoring in ‘attention’ is simple.

Not all attention is equal. Sometimes it may appear that we are paying attention with our eyes, but not with our heads. Or vice versa. How do you pick that up? Attention may be influenced by a multiplicity of factors, including media channel, time of day, device, branding and creative treatment.

And once you accept that attention is worth factoring in, then it has to be measured and, if it is to be genuinely useful, turned into a currency so that relative values can be compared.

Complicated, huh? But worth it, I think. And one area that I expect to see develop is the idea of adding in ‘attention strategies’ to campaigns. Some will say there’s nothing new in this. Maybe, and perhaps it was the norm 10-15-20 years ago, but my guess is that it was largely unspoken or implicit. And now over-shadowed by other considerations. But as media owners and agencies see it as a genuine differentiator, it’s time to welcome it back.

Greening OOH

An apology: a few weeks ago I took an over-sceptical (some would say cynical) view of Ovo’s attempts to ‘green’ its marketing and media. Gimmick at worst, I suggested, pointless at best.

I’m having a rethink, driven partly by a message from a senior player at a much larger advertiser than Ovo, who told me it had been thinking about the same thing, and partly by conscience: if it can be done, then why not?

Part of my initial scepticism centred on one of Ovo’s ideas, which was that it would only buy OOH that was a) digital and b) powered by renewable energy. Too difficult, too restrictive, and so marginal that who cares anyway, I thought.

But lo and behold, here comes Clear Channel ‘greening’ its estate like Kermit. It is clear that, over on their side of the world, some media owners have been thinking about green too.

On offer: new bus shelters, designed from environmentally material, and roofs including solar panels and living gardens; a new digital 48-sheet product, each with what Clear Channel calls a ‘vertical meadow’ — basically a load of plants beside each site. Nice. Good for the air quality, good to look at. And then there’s an overall expansion of the digital estate which (I think) means the sites are more environmentally friendly overall than paper-and-paste.

As CEO Justin Cochrane told delegates at its Upfront evening last week, “the goal is to accompany every new product we install with a social or environmental feature, benefiting the local community.”

My sense is that Clear Channel is laying down a marker here. ‘Greening’ of media may take time to arrive — and there will be varying degrees of difficulty for different types of media owner — but it is coming and it makes sense to get ahead of the curve.

And if all this helps make Clear Channel OOH partner of choice of the likes of Ovo, then it is also money well spent.

KFC wedding bucket

Like me, you may have missed some of the original coverage of what seems like a barking mad idea doing the rounds in Australia: KFC doing wedding food — hat tip to ML for drawing my attention to it.

In short, the story is this: KFC is running a promotion for six lucky wedding couples in which it promises to take its food truck to the venue and serves wedding guests endless buckets of fried chicken and chips. Hmm... finger-licking fab. No more formal wedding dining.

Nevertheless, at first glance looking at it from a KFC view, or a bride-and-groom one, it’s an idea that just seems off-beam. Impossible to do well for KFC; cheap and tacky for the wedding party.

But no. The promotion has been driven by a series of glossy print ads in the likes of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar - hardly the usual destination for a KFC media budget. The ads themselves are a wonderful pastiche of your typical fashionista wedding shot — with a twist.

The ads, moreover, broke two of KFC’s rules: a) never show a single chicken item and b) never show a product with a bite out of it.

But the real story, to me, is light that it sheds on agency-client relationships.

It starts with Ogilvy Sydney punting the idea to an initially under-whelmed client at Chicken HQ. Too off-brand, lacking credibility, difficult to execute. The idea fades. Undaunted, when KFC gets itself a food truck, Ogilvy comes back a year later with the same concept.

Again, it fails to land. But some informal research with KFC store operators indicated that wedding couples were using KFC for a pit-stop between the formal photo shoot and the reception itself. Yes, KFC weddings were an actual thing. (In itself, there’s a lesson in there: both marketing teams and their agencies would do well to stay close to staff in retail outlets if they really want to understand customer habits.)

Ogilvy gets the green light — but hardly any money. Hence the unusual ads and choice of media designed to generate PR.

And...boom! Of course, it could have been easy for Ogilvy to give up on the idea. Equally, it could have been easy for KFC to swat Ogilvy away and tell it focus on the day job. To their joint credit, Ogilvy kept going and KFC listened. But that, in turn, depends on a strong and enduring relationship between the two.

The full details are available on the excellent The Stable site here.

Soutar mission: kick some life into the content

Most of the commentary around Mike Soutar’s move to the CEO role at the Evening Standard has understandably focused on his Shortlist/Stylist experience with free and how that can move the Standard forward commercially.

Quite right too. As Colin Morrison’s Flashes and Flames blog notes, the title’s financial performance has gone from lacklustre to poor.

But so too has its editorial content, and what I had forgotten is that Soutar is a journalist by trade, rising from DC Thomson’s Secrets and Jackie magazines to editor first of Smash Hits and then FHM.

So my plea then is that, when he is not playing the financial spreadsheet jockey — or, in his sideline, eviscerating candidates on The Apprentice — he turns his attention to the Standard’s editorial.

One of the critical elements in the success of both Shortlist and Stylist was the quality of its editorial: ‘good enough to buy’ as Morrison notes.

That is definitely not where the Standard sits as, first, the piles of untaken copies by 8.30/9pm at Waterloo and tube stations indicate (and, yes, I have been ticked off by ESI for pointing this out before); and second, my own reading experience: these days, so threadbare and feeble is the content that I am done by the time I get to Clapham Junction — a mere nine minutes from Waterloo. That is on the days that I bother.

So I’m going to set Soutar a simple target, a little stretching but do-able: make it a 20-minute read, please. That will get me to Wimbledon and nearly home.

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NickDrew, CEO, Fuse Insights on 9 Oct 2019
“>Not all attention is equal. Sometimes it may appear that we are paying attention with our eyes, but not with our heads. Or vice versa. How do you pick that up?
Richard Marks touched on the same topic in his piece on the WFA's cross-media measurement initiative, because it's a fundamental part of finally being able to compare campaigns across channels not just in quantity but in quality.
The essential issue is who gets to decide the correct metric? Ask the TV lobby, and they instinctively opt for something against which TV performs well (and online doesn't); ask online publishers and they won't support something that makes digital look bad.
Until some higher authority comes in, bangs some heads together and tells them that *THIS* is the agreed-upon universal measure of quality, it's going to be perpetually stalled - to the continued detriment of the ad industry as a whole. Maybe Lord Siralan Sugar could parachute in and kick some arse after the current series of The Apprentice is complete...”
TessAlps, Chair, Thinkbox on 7 Oct 2019
“The only 'strategy' you need for media planning is an effectiveness one. Everything else is just a proxy for that - whether it's media consumption, attention, mood, location or context. Of course, it's not easy to attribute effectiveness simply, whether looking at the immediate or ongoing outcomes - and it certainly shouldn't be entrusted to those with a vested interest - but it can be done and it's the most important thing an agency can do for its clients.”


22 May 2020 

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