And finally a new order (or is it an old one in disguise) is taking shape. The death of J Walter Thomson.

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At no point in my 33 year long career could I have expected to be writing a post about JWT being no more.  (In fact in the early days I didn’t know what a post was.)

In fact in the early days there was no internet to even write a post on.

But today Wire and Plastic Products announced that after a tumultuous year, including the merger of Y&R and VML, with Y&R taking second fiddle in the naming stakes (VMLY&R), JWT is to merge with Wunderman and be called…just Wunderman.  What’s more, this article in today’s Drum also talks of the rise of creative and media agencies joining forces.

What we are actually talking about here is the re-emergence of the ‘Full Service Agency” that typified the landscape upon my entry in 1985.

The fracturing of our industry following the rise of the ‘media independents’ caused major financial ramifications and a loss of credibility for either camp, certainly a loss of income.

But now data (media ) and ‘media independents’ are once again forming a properly integrated alliance.

I’m not one of those Ad Contarians that bemoans the death of the idea, although I still cherish it, but good targeting and good creativity was what worked back in the day and will necessarily work again.

I suppose it’s progress.

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New look blog for Think Hard.

It’s pretty much the same content but I’ve applied a new, more open, theme (called Hemingway Rewritten) and added better navigation.  Here’s a couple of pointers.

Firstly you can access content by category a little easier by clicking on the sidebar

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Next, I’ve reconfigured my Blogroll and made it more prominent.  This means you can directly access some of my other blogs should you so wish.  The red dots are my own.

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I’ve also raised the sign up button to the top should you want updates emailed to you.

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Otherwise, it’s the same old opinionated ranting.

The end of my first decade of Thinking Hard? No, the start of my second!

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Ten years ago I sat at my desk looking out onto Ashburnham Loan without a single client.  I’d walked away from my job as CEO of a Stock Market listed communications group.  Just like three years earlier I had walked away from my role as MD of my own advertising agency (50 strong and highly regarded).

Why had I done this?

(After all, to lose one senior level role is unfortunate, to lose two is downright carelessness.)

But I hadn’t lost either of them.

I’d elected to change my viewpoint on work.  To get out of the hamster’s wheel of eternal financial year ends, HR responsibilities, client bum sucking, to keep the corporate machine rolling on when I didn’t always respect all of the clients or all of the work my team was doing for them.

And that’s actually the crux of it. “the work my team was doing for them“.

I, personally, wasn’t actually a net contributor to anything that came out of either of those agencies.

I was simply a manager, albeit a senior one.

I didn’t want to be a manager.

It’s boring.

And so I walked away.

Twice.

Ten years later I’ve completed 694 creative (mainly) projects for no fewer than 80 different clients.  The vast majority of which I can say I’m proud of.  And have enjoyed the process, liked the people I’ve worked with, and for, and made many new friends along the way.

In fact, it’s the longest I’ve held down a job in my life.

And it’s allowed me to indulge in other things I consider worthwhile; NABS, FCT, The Lyceum, Creative Edinburgh

Thanks guys.

Thanks very, very much.

I hope some of you will stick around for the next ten.

What happens when media buying isn’t important.

One thing I dislike about the creation of ‘content’ for brands instead of ads is this sort of sloppy rubbish.

The lack of discipline that ‘free’ airtime imposes leads to mushy, over-long epics like this.

The central idea is pretty ridiculous and whilst the football footage is credible enough (difficult admittedly) it outstays its welcome by at least 3 minutes.

And returning to the idea…what is it?

What does it say about Nike other than Ronaldo uses their kit?

Gash.  IMHO.

“Apostrophes are wee arseholes.”

That is the single bestest sentence I’ve read in a long while.

It stemmed from a twitter conversation I had with Helen Sell of The Gate Interactive.

She’d posted this, decent, long copy ad for Currys, but my Lynne Truss-like eye spotted that slap dang gosh in the middle of it was an offence to mankind.

THE MISSING APOSTROPHE.

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Come on Currys.  Come on.

And come on your agency too.

A bloody great retail ad spoiled by a wee arsehole.

 

How not to kill your clients.

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So impressed and inspired was I by Atul Gawande’s astonishing book, The Checklist Manifesto, about how a seemingly mundane tool such as a checklist can reduce deaths on the operating table by half, that I’ve been pondering on how the same could apply to the world of advertising.

His inspiration was the world of airline piloting and he took the principals of this industry and applied them to his own.

I’ve done the same for the advertising industry and will be sharing them with an audience of account handlers at The Leith Agency on May 6th.

My presentation covers all aspects of advertising strategy and how to minimise your chances of getting it all horribly wrong, and contributing to the 89% of advertising that, according to Dave Trott, simply does not get noticed and consequently has no chance of working.

If you’re interested I could potentially be persuaded to share it with you.

(But only after The Leith Agency have had first dibs.)

Google RankBrain. What it means. (I think.)

I was reading a post today about RankBrain, the artificial intelligence (AI) tool that Google engineers have been training since last October to process user-search results in such a way that it makes them more relevant to users.

It’s essentially a new tweak to Google’s already highly complex Hummingbird algorithm to make search (i.e. advertising) more effective/intuitive/human.  (Slightly ironic then that they don’t use humans to actually train the algorithm.)

It’s got the SEO community in a palaver and it’s scaring some SEO practitioners because if it works it will make PageRank, which assesses inbound links, less effective. (Link building is the current top dollar methodology for increasing a website’s prominence and authority on Google.) And that will mean genuinely good websites will beat wolves in sheep’s clothing in site ranking.

That’s good for those of us who value quality over quantity.

Right?

Well the boffins can’t really agree on anything in SEO – which suits them.  As the more black magic associated with it the better.

They make it singularly as complex as they can, although five minutes spent perusing this outstanding infographic by Column Five Media might help you get see the full(ish) picture  because it gives an, at-a-glance, perspective on the factors that influence search.

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What’s gratifying about this, from my personal perspective is the things we mere humans can influence, situated prominently and with authority, at the top left of the table are Content, Words, Research and Freshness.  RankBrain is going to like these a lot and further move the dial away from link-building as the most effective means of getting people to read your website.

 

But if you want a boffin or two’s view; help yourself and maybe you could explain to me what they mean.

…it’s merely a switch from user-intermediated algo-tweaks to mostly automated algo-tweaks to arrive at the same end result

or this

 …also think they will include the fact element they patented – the number of facts a page has about a keyword set – latent semantics meets encyclopedic data.