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Dominic Mills 

Linguistic divide; wine analogies; and Friends for sale

Linguistic divide; wine analogies; and Friends for sale

Dominic Mills talks Gnatcatchers and headless content, drops a Father's Day hint and wonders what's next for the cast of Friends

Are you familiar with the term ‘headless content’? You might have to be soon, wherever you work in adland.

Me, I had no idea what it meant till a few days ago, and nor am I alone (judging by my picture editor's choice of main image).

Aside from chickens, I tend to associate headless with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow or Warren Zevon’s tawdry tale of mercenaries, Roland the Headless Thomson Gunner.

Anyway, headless content refers to content assets (ie pictures, text) that can be used in any channel without intervention or repurposing. Or, as Wunderman Thompson puts it: “Headless content is not tied to a specific channel but provided as data through an API.”

Thus it’s an e-commerce thing — content served dynamically that is ‘supposed’ (my word) to be personalised — and maybe if e-commerce isn’t quite your thing yet, it soon will be.

Marketers, media, creative, planning… all those traditional disciplines will have to get e-commerce savvy and catch-up pretty fast with the technologists who, for the moment, at any rate, seem to be in charge.

You can read more about e-commerce in this report by Wunderman Thompson and Sitecore, Building Better Experiences.

I mention this not because I want to focus on e-commerce, but because it underlines what seems to me a possibly threatening divide between the many groups — tribes, one might say — that make up adland: linguistic differences and the potential for mis-understanding and division.

Here, the language spoken by e-commerce specialists, probably a subset of that spoken by technologists, uses the same words as those spoken by everybody else, but that’s as far as it goes.

There were some striking examples of the way this plays out in the report, which surveyed 580 marketing and IT decision makers in a handful of major markets.

So, while 54% were familiar with ‘headless content’, 24% had never heard of it, and 27% were not very familiar with it.

I’d bet two things: one, some of that 54% lied; and of the 51% who knew nothing or little of it, nearly all were marketers.

The report also shows the divide between the two groups, with both claiming that the other are on different pages.

Thus, 81% of IT people say marketers don’t understand their teams needs, while 84% of marketers say the same about IT.

That seems quite alarming to me.

Post 2020, we know e-commerce is a key battle ground for many brands and, together with programmatic, the crucial intersection point for technologists, marketers and media. But if they can’t understand each other, It’s not going to be pretty.

Talking of media language, may I introduce you to the term ‘Gnatcatcher’, in use among the hardcore technologists looking for alternatives to third-party cookies and universal ID solutions in the privacy debate.

I’ve written before about how this cohort is fixated on ornithological terminology, but Gnatcatcher is in a class of its own and, insofar as it contains acronyms within an acronym, a Russian doll of its type.

It stands for: “Global Network Address Translation Combined with Audited and Trusted CDN or HTTP-Proxy Eliminating Reidentification”.

As they say of the UK and US, we’re two nations divided by a common language.

I’ll have some of that, thanks

Weekends aside, I tend to read the newspapers on my iPad. It’s just quicker, mostly swiping left.

As a result, to get me to pause, the ads have to smack you right between the eyes. Not enough do, as for example with this Google ad for News Showcase.


It’s certainly something that matters to me. I care about protecting professional journalism, local or national.

But while the white space might draw the eye, there’s not much about the copy that does.

For a big deal, it’s pretty dull. By the time I’d got to the bottom I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to do.

Contrast that with, a few swipes on in the same edition, this Sunday Times Wine Club ad for Father’s Day.

It’s certainly arresting. All that effort with the art direction from the typography to the illustration — again contrast with the Google ad — pays dividends.

Normally the idea of wine pairing seems too up itself to me, but here the idea of pairing with different dad stereotypes makes me laugh.

To extend the analogy, the News Showcase ad is a tame Chardonnay, maybe 12% ABV. The Wine Club ad is a rich Pinot Noir.

The copy is fun too. I recognised bits of myself in at least three of those dad stereotypes. By coincidence, here is Newsworks offering some advice on how to do great press advertising.

They say that agencies can’t write copy anymore. But some can. So old-fashioned....

I can’t particularly be faffed with joining a wine club, but I might just forward the ad to my children as a hint.

Friends for sale

Other than for fanatics, the general consensus among Friends watchers was that last week’s much-touted reunion was pretty flat, giving rise to the suspicion that for the cast, it was one last payday.

So, we ask ourselves, are Ross, Rachel, Joey and all poised to do a de Niro and pimp themselves out for a bit of late-career celebrity endorsement?

Maybe. David Schwimmer has been touring the UK in a camper van for TSB. And Jennifer Aniston — naturally, given our fixation with her hair, has been fronting up for L’Oreal since who knows when.

But nothing really beats her short appearance in this classic Lynx ad ironing her dweeb boyfriend’s trousers as he dreams of a wild night out — but not with her.

Celebs who send themselves up always win in my book.

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