What Next for Big Tech?

An electric vehicle glides silently up the drive of an elegant suburban home. A man steps out wearing a white suit and removes three glass receptacles from a stack of cases in the back. They are each filled with a white liquid. He places them next to the front door, removes three identical, empty vessels, returns to the vehicle and slips away. He was known as the milkman. Read more


  THERE'S A FRESH FACE ON THE RUNWAY It belongs to a young model called Kaia Gerber. Kaia, who is the daughter of Cindy Crawford, is a 16 year old girl with a ‘smouldering stare’ who models clothing lines aimed at women twice her age. WHO'S BUYING? WHO'S SELLING? Kaia has already featured in shows for Chanel, Fendi, Chloé, Prada, Versace, Valentino and many more. These brands believe she’s ideally suited to showcase their products. But does this juxtaposition actually work? Are they selling a designer lifestyle or eternal youth? Do brands believe their beautiful garments will make their customers look 16? Do they expect us to lap up this fantasy? Or simply feel cheated? THE WORLD IS A PHOTOSHOP  Faith in everything - God, Government and our institutions is waning. In this new, challenging landscape, how should companies look and behave? We all have an appetite for perfection but it’s making us sick. Thinspo (imagery of the beautiful but implausibly thin) is pushing young girls to become anorexic. Images of the rich and lucky are driving a crisis of mental illness among the less fortunate. It seems the traditional skill of marketing - creating desirable images that might exaggerate the truth - are under fire. Read more

Is Hubris and Fear Blocking Startups and Corporates from Pairing Up?

Over the last 5 years I’ve lived in the company of entrepreneurs in a world of startups. So have many other people who reckon new businesses are the best way to revitalise our beleaguered economies. Startups are exciting. They’re optimistic. They are free of the things that make running a business difficult. Things like customers. Legacy systems. Or shareholders’ relentless expectations of growth - based on increments of last year’s profits. Read more

Why I won't be at Cannes Lions this year

  Last year, we rented a 100' motor yacht called the Accama (see above). It came stocked with unlimited Champagne and Rosé. We shared it with the most interesting and influential people we could think of and soon realised that most of them could have just as easily been found in Soho House. We all had a marvellous time but, in spite of the hedonism, we came away feeling that the Ad industry had lost its mojo.  Read more

Can the Tech Sector focus more on Joy

I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend who quit his high-flying career as a banker to become a mindfulness coach. “One in three people in London are now technically mad”, he explains. “I am doing my best to help them find balance and happiness”. It’s not a heartening statistic but anyone catching an early morning tube heading into London just needs to look into the eyes of commuters to conclude he’s probably right. So why is it that people are losing their minds? A recent observation by Clayton Christensen* clarifies the problem. Clayton observes that for the last fifty years, businesses have been measured on their ability to drive down costs and increase efficiency. A worthy maxim when you think of automating dreary manufacturing jobs and outsourcing labour to cheaper parts of the world. Read more

Brace yourselves for the Ad-pocalypse

Back in the 1960s Howard Luck Gossage of the legendary San Francisco advertising agency Freeman Mander & Gossage wrote this: “Nobody reads advertising. People read what interests them. And sometimes it’s an ad.”   He was right. We don’t much care for advertising but because it has funded much of the media that we consume we’ve tended to suck it up. Even though global ad expenditure is bigger than ever, advertising is under growing pressure and here’s why. To start with, we are over-messaged. Everywhere we go we are being spammed, retargeted and interrupted by advertising messages. And it’s not pleasant. Which is why we are increasingly ignoring ads. It’s quite remarkable how much the first world has tuned out of advertising.  Read more

Why Marketers are going MADtech

If you catch any contemporary marketer and ask them if they are doing a good job, most of them will tell you they’re struggling. It’s no surprise. Mass market communication is in decline. In the last five years marketing has moved from being ostensibly one way messaging using a few tried and tested media, to the art of curating conversations on a multiplicity of new and evolving apps and platforms. So many new tools have been built to ‘help’ visualise and manage these conversations but managing thousands of simultaneous conversations in real-time isn’t easy. A typical CMO may find themselves responsible for digital platforms to manage CRM, marketing automation, email marketing, website content and analytics, data analytics, market research, creative development, programmatic ad serving, social media listening, mobile marketing etc. etc.   Read more

MADtech transforms Marketing Mix

The worlds of marketing and advertising are being turned upside down by digital – and in many ways, particularly for the consumer, it’s producing change for the better, says Rod Banner. Last week, I was listening to another startup explain their business. They were rightly proud of a series of customer metrics: engagements, sales, repeats, referrals, reviews etc. Then they spoke of the future. “When we raise the next round, we’re going to turn on the afterburners,” they said, referring to ‘paid’ marketing activity. Their story is fairly typical. They’re a white-hot retail fashion app. They make no fashion products. They don’t design the stuff they sell. To be honest, they don’t warehouse or pack or ship anything either. The business’s key purpose is to curate nice things, present them beautifully and bring their story to the attention of a discerning audience. A few years ago, that activity was called marketing. Today it’s an app. Marketing is changing. Welcome to madtech – a fresh combination of marketing, advertising and technology. It’s about selling to an increasingly savvy and intolerant audience, using new tools and new strategies. Read more

What is MADtech and why should you care?

Over the last few years the business of marketing has completely changed. Shoppers have wised up to a century of spin and learned to ignore hyperbole in advertising. Exaggerated claims have been further undermined by social media which applies the scrutiny of the crowd. We have entered a new era where marketing succeeds when it is totally transparent – conveying only facts coated with emotion rather than untruths wrapped in fiction. Marketers are further challenged by consumers who are now trying to have real time conversations with the brands that they love. Gone are the cosy days of throwing a few TV spots to the braying masses during the year. Now they all want to chat directly – one-to-one.   Read more

Participation Marketing - or how to Embrace Engagement

What does Participation Marketing mean to you? If you think back to your first kiss, it was probably a little awkward. You possibly even asked if it would be OK to plant your lips on someone else’s. That’s Permission Marketing. Now if you think of the best kiss you’ve ever had, chances are nobody asked anyone anything. Both parties were involved in the creation of a memorable, possibly delicious experience. That’s more akin to Participation Marketing. Read more

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