Monday, 21 July 2008

UKTV have announced the new name for Gold +1... 'Watch'. And after the success of the Dave rebrand last year, the announcement of 'Watch' has come in for some stick - and I think with good reason.

Before I go into my own thoughts, lets dwell on UKTV's other announced rebrand - Alibi for a second. This is a strong identity and in a sector (documentary channels) which has been undergoing massive upheavels it should prosper. Older, downmarket female audeinces love Crime, and the old model of getting your fix on Five and Discovery is shifting... The Crime Channel has come in to take a bite of Disco's pie, and Five's serving of Crime docs (and drama) is just popularising more specialised digital offerings.
Its fairly clear what you get on Alibi, so its not open to criticism on that count. The only weakness for me is the lack of a clear link to the parent brand - this isn't necessarily a massive problem though, and is in fact reflective of UKTVs strategy - on air trails will link navigation around thier family of channels.

So back to Watch.

I don't like it.
Industry commentators have largely pointed to the fact that the name doesn't reflect the content, and I agree that this is a problem for smaller channels (note that different channels on differing platorms need to behaive in different ways). Every brand - including TV brands need to put the needs of their consumers first and for a TV brand, one of the biggest consumer needs is knowing what to expect from your channel. I'd go further than most buyers though and argue that as well as overlooking their viewing consumer, UKTV have also overlooked thier media audeince.

TV brands aren't just selling to consumers, they're selling to agencies too.
I don't see how Watch would ever become integral to a media or coms strategy. I can see how Dave might... 'the home of witty banter' fits well with trends in lads lives... 'a place to watch... things' does not.

Broadly speaking there are two types of TV channel from a planning point of view: Ones which must be on your plan (because they fit the strategy) and make weights, ones which get on the schedule purely becasue they happen to be there. For me UKTV Gold +1's rebrand was a chance to move away from the big bucket of impacts that so many also ran channels supply and give planners and buyers a reason to put it on the plan for its own merits. Calling it Watch doesn't do that and as such is a mistake.

To me, Watch was a late 70's history show for kids with a natty dancing plasticine intro. Younger readers will have no idea what I'm talking about - check out TV Cream if you want some heady nostalgia.

To thousands of UKTV viewers as well as the media industry... well I'm not to sure what it will mean.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Independence Day

232 years ago today a group of angry colonials sat down and signed the declaration of independence.

You can read the history any way you want:
A usurpation of power.
The culmination of a mighty progress.

It changed history, and has been shaping it ever since.

I don’t think Independence Day should be remembered as the date a nation was founded. I think it marks a point in time when humanity grew up.

I’d guess that most people in the UK haven’t read the declaration.
I read it today, as I hadn’t before. It’s actually quite short…
… and in all honesty I was a little disappointed.

Most of it is a big list of complaints against George III (all of which seem fair enough to me, but I wasn’t there so can’t really comment). All rather dull.

The best bit is the second paragraph which is where you get the ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ – which is genius.

Today I’m leaving my job to spend a year pursuing happiness - looking after my baby daughter, who is lovely.

In the meantime I’ll be trying to keep the blog going, finish my book, train for the Olympics in 2012 and write a Eurovision entry. So do feel free to keep stopping by – as, nappies allowing, there should still be some vaguely interesting stuff here.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Why digital isn't about digital

It’s a fairly overused cliché already, but the thing about digital is that behaviour doesn’t really change at a basic level… people are still doing the things they always did – they’re just finding new ways of making them happen.

This reminds me of a possibly mythic story I was once told about an architect who had designed two tower blocks within a campus. During the pitch presentation. One of the clients pointed out, they’d forgotten to lay out the paths that ran between the two buildings… a ha! said the architect, we didn’t forget them… build the towers and the users will mark the paths out for themselves. We’ll concrete them over later.

I was reading a post on potlatch called ‘blogging and its opposite’. I think Will makes an interesting (and obvious – but aren’t all the best ideas) point:

…Media gurus talk about the shift from 'push', broadcast media to 'pull', on-demand or network media, but this shift was always going to throw up some fairly uncomfortable truths about the human condition…
Why does someone link to, forward, click on, bookmark or save a link? The answer is less often epistemological or moral than aesthetic or psychoanalytic. In the age of 'pull media' it is not only the content that is pulled to us by technology, but we who are pulled to it by our psyches and bodies.

I was going to make a point here about an account man who I was in a meeting with a while ago who patently didn’t get this point. I won’t. He’s a dick and I’ve wasted too much time being annoyed by the meeting.

The point
It’s not just about content.
You have to understand the consumer too.
Think about their psyche. Think about what actually makes them tick.
Talk to them on that level and you have a genuine connection.

Digital is not about technology it’s about people’s reactions to it.
Don’t start the process by thinking about online. Think about digital.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Show Us a Better Way – The UK government harnesses the creative powers of the great unwashed

Ever been frustrated that you can't find out something that ought to be easy to find? Ever been baffled by league tables or 'performance indicators'? – so asks the opening paragraph of the new site from the Power of information taskforce.

In essence the UK government is running a huge competition, asking how can we make technology help us use our data better.
It’s open to all.
And there’s a £20k prize fund. Hardly a massive incentive, but still it might be enough to get some creative types off their beanbags/or GCSE students to look up from their PCs and give it a crack.

I think this is a really positive step forward.
The way things are done on high has been set in centuries of bureaucracy for years now. A Bureaucracy set up a long long time before digital information was ever dreamt of. As the website admits:

We're confident that you'll have more and better ideas than we ever will.

I’m sure the public will.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Obama's system - an opportunity for the Lib Dems?

The real life, non digital source of info that is Mr S Carr, sent me this. It’s a link to a Next Great Thing post on Barack Obama’s nomination campaign.

It picks out what it sees as the highlights of Obama’s approach to politics and fund raising including tactics such as and his use of existing social networking sites. It then goes on to contrast this approach with that of John McCain ( which has just revamped its website and is offering McCain branded water bottles.

To me this is a great political example of one candidate who gets the distributed identity point, and one who clearly does not. And points interestingly to a very real division between the connected (those voters who are absorbing digital) and the merely online (those who are not fully online, or whose offline habits are not reflected in their online usage).
And the obvious demonstration of this is on the one hand Obama’s use of a broad section of sites, pages and technologies and on the other McCain’s development of a website.

To be fair I’m sure McCain will evolve… (maybe).

I think it gets really interesting when you try to map this approach on to the UK political arena… because it doesn’t seem to work.


The American model elects a president. The UK system elects a party.

Parties are slower ships to turn than individuals.
People’s beliefs and understandings of parties hold over time.
Which is why the Conservatives went to town on Cameron first… the halo effect of a leader’s personality can influence a party positively and rapidly.

In the UK neither of the main party’s could adopt an Obama style system with any credibility.
It would be like watching your dad at a disco.
Both blue and red have too defined personalities within the British societies psyche.

The Libdems on the other hand could...
It is not inconceivable for them to set up a social network allowing real people to have a say. Importantly for them it could provide a funding basis too… which is something they lack over the two other main parties.

The other route… might be to set up a movement independent of the main parties.
For me this is could lead to extremism. The benefit of Obama’s route is that he has combined leadership with social input.

Look at Myfootballclub as an example.

As you might expect, it’s a football club that’s owned and run by on online community. All policies, transfer decisions etc are made by the network.
Interestingly very soon after it kicked off it was recognised by the members that the manager needed to be able to make decisions. He’s closer to the team and is a leader.

Maybe this model is the new direction British Politics has been looking for, for a while.

Google and Family Guy's creator reinvent... some stuff

‘We have reinvented the mass media!’ - really? Well not really, but Google and Family Guy co-creator Seth Macfarlane are having a pretty good crack at it.

Yesterday it was announced that Seth, was entering into a partnership with Google to distribute his new project ‘Cavalcade of Comedy’ through their adnetwork Adsense.
The big switch being that now an ad-network becomes a mass broadcast media…

Lost Remote have nice topline piece on it.

…and here’s me thinking that it always has been.

‘…The partnership with Mr. MacFarlane represents a bold step into the distribution business, one that, if successful, will surely send shock waves through the entertainment business.’ – Kim Malone Scott, Director of sales and Operations for Adsense.

The idea is that Cavalcade of comedy will run across a network of male orientated sites, carrying pre and post-roll advertising, which Seth will (at least in part), play a role in creating.

Well yes this is new news. And yes it is a reinvention of the use of an adnetwork. But is it the future?

Faris in TIGs thinks its pretty ground-breaking:

It turns the broadcast advertising model upside and inside out. The content doesn't create the audience to sell it to advertisers - it goes out and finds its audience, via the advertising, using other people's content, that already has an audience.
Or something.

A kind of marketing cuckoo.

I think its pretty cool. I also think its getting a lot of hype at the moment as it’s Google, and because it’s digital (and digital and televisual entertainment are on a collision course).
It’s certainly not the first example of content as a hook for advertising.
It’s also not the first time this type of thing has been embedded in ad units in other sites.
It is however Google. And that is impressive – because of their size, as well as their willingness to experiment.

I’m not so sure that this is the future of entertainment though … Although I think it could potentially be one way an entertainment brand could distribute its identity online.

Ultimately, for me it doesn’t tally with the way consumers enjoy televisual media at the moment. But could serve to draw them in to a more rich experience… who’s to say they won’t all change in the future though.

Either way I’m looking forward to seeing it.