The newcomer, the numbers and the naming

11 Sep 2017  |  Dominic Mills 
The newcomer, the numbers and the naming

Dominic Mills examines the very verbose launch of new agency Uncommon, unpicks Facebook's latest numberwanging, and wonders what thought-processes led to the naming of WPP's Wavemaker

Relief. Summer’s gone. Some things are new; others the same old.

Let’s start with some new. Today sees the relaunch of Campaign in its new monthly guise. In keeping with tradition, it is also the place where ex-Grey refugees Lucy Jameson, Nils Leonard and Natalie Graeme have gifted an exclusive on their new agency, Uncommon (logo pictured).

I’m pleased. The trio, who left Grey in spectacular style the day after Cannes last year - a proper two-fingers gesture - bring a lot of oomph and colour to the industry. It’s good to have them back. And Campaign is exactly where these exclusives should be, although the monthly format will make this hard to pull off in future.

What of Uncommon? I like the name, and the core premises - one, creating brands (either by itself, with start-ups or with clients); and two, using a shifting cast of talent (as opposed to staffers), of whom there are plenty around - are both interesting, if not entirely new.

Yes, there is a place for the big network agencies, but the industry thrives on start-ups that come in with something different, and in that sense Uncommon is part of a continuous regeneration process that keeps the industry on its toes and moving, if not always forwards.

There are some clients that routinely hand business - perhaps new-product development, perhaps a small, ailing, brand - to interesting start-ups, and though it’s sometimes done just to take the agency off the market in their category, it’s a good idea.

I imagine Uncommon would be top of the list for clients seeking to do that, all the more so given its wish to create new brands and the track records of its founders.

That’s the serious stuff. Here’s the fun.

In a category - agency launch - where hype, self-indulgence, verbal diarrhoea is the norm, Uncommon’s announcement is something special.

Each founder indulges themselves with long, rambling quotes - 256 words for Leonard, 369 for Graeme (that’s longer than this article so far), and a mere 133 for Jameson.

It is as though, I thought, they’ve been in solitary confinement and had to let it all out. Then I realised that, metaphorically at least, they had: 12 months in a prison called “gardening leave” where purdah is the norm.

Here’s Leonard rambling on like a backwoods survivalist "...More than the ad industry, the world has never felt so fast, so fragile, but so open and in need of new ideas. The woods are burning politically, ecologically, and financially. This isn’t about advertising, it’s about anyone starting a creative company or brand right now realising they have a part to play and the power to make a difference...”

If he’d started talking about guns, tinned supplies and circling the wagons I wouldn’t have been at all surprised.

And here’s Graeme sounding like Gwyneth Paltrow: “We’ve all made shit work at one point in our lives, so there is no fear here.
 We all share. We all listen. Then we make it all better. 
You’re in the room because you’re special, make an impact, take us all forwards. We bring our whole selves to work and we are who we are. And we expect you do too. Any gender, any race, any age.”

Huh?

FFS, this is only an ad agency. My advice to clients: bring a machete to hack through the verbiage. Despite the mumbo jumbo, I think it’ll be worth it.

Facebook: caught playing the numbers game again

Plus ca change...our friends at Facebook are up to their old tricks inflating their audience numbers. Allowing a small toot on the personal trumpet, I noticed this a few months ago.

This time, it’s the influential Wall Street analyst Brian Wieser who has called Facebook out, drawing attention to its claim to have 41m 18-24-year-olds in the US, compared to census figures of 31m.

It’s depressing, but what I can’t work out which is more depressing: that Facebook keeps doing this, or that it takes someone outside the industry - specifically outside the media agencies - to highlight the problem.

Here’s Facebook’s ludicrous explanation, which doesn’t seem to allow a shred of error on its part. Apparently, they are based on a “number of factors, including Facebook user behaviors, user demographics, and location data from devices."

What’s more, “they are not designed to match population or census estimates."

I think this is corporate speak for “we don’t care”.

We all know the cause of the problem: multiple accounts and fake profiles. Just read this comment thread to see how widespread this is.

Facebook appears to have sailed undamaged through multiple measurement failures over the last year. In and of itself, I doubt that this revelation will change things overnight - such as forcing Facebook to verify its audiences or open up to third-party inspection - but let’s just see it as another piece of the wall being chipped away.

New agency (and a new name a bit like an old one)

At last, we have the new name for the (forcibly) conjoined MEC and Maxus...ta da...Wavemaker.

I can’t really think of anything to say about the name - it’s ok, it’ll do a job - except that the official explanation for the name claims that the W reflects the WPP ownership, and M its GroupM parentage. Ha. Honestly, who is going to work that out, or who cares? This as sublime a piece of post-rationalisation as I’ve seen in years.

Me, I’m amused by the fact that the powers that be have nicked it from Wavemaker, MEC’s existing content division. You could say it’s a sign that content will be a major part of the offering (with the latter ‘imaginatively’ re-christened WM Content) or you could see it as a sign of desperation.

The poor sods asked to come up with a new name stumbled around for weeks, and then realised the only decent thing was sitting right under their noses. Claiming droit de seigneur, they nicked it. It’s as if VW, fed up with all the nasty smells sticking to the corporate name, renamed itself Golf or Polo, leaving the powerless owners of the original to suck it up.

And I see Barclays has walked from Maxus, the inevitable result of client conflict with MEC's Lloyds Bank Group business. One assumes the new entity will have factored losses of this kind in but nevertheless it doesn't get the new agency off on the front foot.

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TobyBeresford, CEO, rise.global on 19 Sep 2017
“I think it's more than third party inspection that's needed, the stats need to be maintained by a third party. Accuracy and reliability are much improved when analytics and statistics are published independently of the organisation whose data is being tracked.”
NickDrew, CEO, Fuse Insights on 11 Sep 2017
“"It’s depressing, but what I can’t work out which is more depressing: that Facebook keeps doing this, or that it takes someone outside the industry - specifically outside the media agencies - to highlight the problem."
What's probably most depressing is that, as you mention, this news is 6 months old, but nothing has changed. Someone in a media outlet spots it, reports on it, people act shocked for a week and then... nothing. There's no accountability, no change in Facebook's figures, no increased scrutiny of their data, and no shift of ad spend as a result of untrustworthy reporting. This and the misstated ad impression stories really demonstrate that advertisers are complicit to some degree - they have a desire to believe in Facebook and its effectiveness as a marketing platform, even in the face of repeated evidence to the contrary.”