Gray Matters: the best of OOH, retailers as advertisers, an unconscious bias, and customer labels

Rage against the machine

With OohMedia sponsoring the Stoppies Awards this week and following Ooh’s acquisition of Adshel last June, it seemed pertinent to look at some of the best outdoor advertising from elsewhere to see what kind of innovations might be seen here.

Forbes has just published Nine of the Best Outdoor Advertising Campaigns with the comment: “with modern display methods and fresh ideas, outdoor advertising has never had a greater ability to make a big impact”.

The most interesting was the ‘#CancelSouthPark’ Billboards in Los Angeles, which came from the creators of South Park, in preparation for the launch of their 22nd season. Black billboards went up all over Los Angeles featuring a simple but bold ‘#CancelSouthPark’ hashtag in white text.

According to TV Web, the cancel South Park hashtag has already gained momentum on social media with fans wondering what exactly is going on. The suggestion is that show creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker are poking fun at the rage culture so prevalent on social media sites. “Social media users have gotten the cancel South Park hashtag trending, which was precisely the point.”

With some media (obviously not South Park aficionados) not getting the joke, there was a strong belief that the show was to be cancelled. South Park is currently contracted to run until 2019 which will see it through Season 23. Stone and Parker are obviously soliciting fan support for a new contract from Comedy Central.

Meanwhile, Fast Company has an article People love Instagramming billboards–and it’s great for advertisers highlighting the fact that, according to Nielsen, one in four Americans have posted an image of an outdoor ad to Instagram. “It just takes one. One billboard, in one city, with a message can travel the globe in an instant,” writes Jeff Beer, staff editor at Fast Company.

The recent research by Nielsen reports that the one in four US adults who has posted a photo on Instagram after seeing an outdoor advertisement is, “higher than almost any other advertising traditional media–TV, radio, print, or digital banner ad”. This “earned media” is making outdoor advertising the hottest buying proposition of the near future.

Also creating cultural relevance for the brand was the Delta Dating Wall from ad agency Weiden and Kennedy. Their out-of-home activation for Delta motivates singles to take selfies against paintings of exotic locales painted on a Brooklyn Wall like they’re world travellers and upload to their Tinder profiles. This is another great example of out-of-home advertising using the multiplier effect of social media.

Can retail be a medium?

Having watched Amazon.com Inc. build a massive advertising business, brick and mortar stores are looking to do the same,” reports Bloomberg. “Facebook might know what your customers like, and Google might know what they want, but only we know what they actually buy,” is the message from some of the biggest retail chains in America, Walmart, Target Corp. Kroger Co. and Ahold Delhaize.

What’s interesting is that Walmart has more traffic than either Google or Facebook. If we extrapolate that example to the New Zealand retail environment, it would seem to make sense to use retailers like Farmers, New World, Pak’nSave and Countdown as an advertising medium rather than what The Guardian calls “the robber barons of Facebook and Google”.

With tightening margins, retailers are looking for alternate revenue streams and perhaps the solution lies with retail agencies like 99, to help clients boost their advertising business.

“That’s an opportunity for retailers, which already have long-standing relationships with the big consumer brands that quietly pay them millions every year for prime shelf space,” writes Bloomberg.  And as Tory Gundelach, a former Target and Kroger exec who’s now at Kantar Consulting says, “Retailers have to make money beyond just selling products”.

Unconscious bias

Reading ex StopPress editor Damien Venuto’s interview with departing  Comms Council, president, Louise Bond, in NZ Herald, I was interested in the statement: “Under her watch, the Comms Council conducted research into diversity in the industry, established an ‘Inclusiveness and Diversity’ group and also called on all member agencies to incorporate diversity policies by the end of the year.”

Having seen the over-representation of women in media and PR agencies, I jokingly asked my partner whether this meant more opportunities for pale, stale males.

On a more serious note, I looked back at an article I remembered seeing in the UK edition of Campaign in May of last year. What it highlighted was an “underrepresentation of women in the creative departments of advertising agencies, particularly as creative directors. Indeed, IPA research suggests that 89 percent of creative directors in the UK are men”.

What was illuminating was that, “the gender split of graduates from the creative courses that train people for these roles – such as advertising, art and design higher education courses — is biased towards women, with 61.7 percent of graduates female. There are more young women training for roles in creative departments than men, by quite a long way.”

It would be interesting to discover if this is similar to the situation in New Zealand.

What the research showed was that female graduates were becoming account managers, planners and project managers, but not creatives, “despite training specifically for this role”.

What is interesting, is the reasons given by Kathryn Ellis, planning director at McCann Bristol, who wrote the article for Campaign. These were: “An unconscious bias amongst male educators and creative directors that leads them to champion more masculine work. Exclusion of women from social events and networking. Lack of female role models, especially successful creative directors who are mums. Lack of confidence in traditional masculine soft skills, such as assertiveness, drive, resilience and self-promotion. Denial amongst young women that gender is a barrier to their success.”

Do these reasons apply to the local market?

Is content advertising?

“Content marketing is not advertising,” says IAG director of content Zara Curtis speaking at a recent Australian Think Content Breakfast, as reported by AdNews. So, if it’s not advertising, then what is it? Vincent Heeringa called content marketing, “sex on wheels” but the official definition is, “a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services”.

The key phrase here is “does not explicitly promote a brand”, but the line between where brand promoting articles are paid for and those where the editorial integrity is kept intact is a very thin one.

Back in 2017, Richard Liew, founder and editor of NZ Entrepreneur magazine, wrote: “I’ve met a number of publishers and advertisers recently who are still having a hard time distinguishing between content marketing and advertorial pieces.” This comment reflects my own experience when subjects of interviews for feature articles desperately attempt to sight, approve and sometimes edit independent articles to which they have contributed.

That to my mind is where the thin line is crossed. Marketers should understand that there is value in an independent journalistic review of a brand or organisation and fluff pieces are easily recognised by discerning readers.

So, is content advertising? Sometimes it is and often it is not. It all depends on the integrity of the media platform and the ability of marketers to loosen the reins.

As Liew wrote: “Today’s customers are savvy and they are cynical. They love to buy but they hate to be sold.”

Consumers are people too

“Reducing people to a single act such as ‘consuming’ strips away context and will hold your brand back from truly connecting,” writes Debbie Spence on Mumbrella. “I can recall at least eight different labels I’ve heard used in the past couple of weeks: consumers, targets, shoppers, buyers, customers, members, stakeholders, and – the most odious – recipients. I shudder when marketers reduce people to this. It’s lazy, demeaning, arrogant and contrived.”

So, are New Zealand marketers guilty of dehumanising their customers and prospects? How many times have you received a communication that indicates a lack of understanding? Mailers addressed to Dear Mr Graham K are just a result of lazy data use, but as Omer Minkara wrote in Aberdeen in December, “ there are the ugly things that make consumers completely shut down or distrust customer data collection – security breaches, undisclosed monitoring, unexpected data uses, undesired outreach from third parties, etc”.

From spam emails and nuisance phone calls to waiting times on 0800 numbers, there are many annoyances that consumers have to suffer but as Ann Latham alludes to in Forbes, 3 Terrible Ways To Treat Your Customers — Are You Guilty?, too many marketers lead with a terrible first impression, make big mistakes and then respond in a way that shows little care, and offer only partial solutions that leave customers less than satisfied.

Who is the worst? Well ignoring the obvious Swiss-based ticket reselling platform Viagogo, in court in New Zealand this week, it appears to be Vodafone, followed by Spark as the companies that received most consumer complaints on the Commerce Commission’s list of the most complained about companies. Details were revealed by NZ Herald here.

Doom and gloom

Share drops in the last quarter of 2018 for major advertising conglomerates are bad news for traditional advertising. Publicis dropped 12 percent, WPP six percent, Interpublic five percent and Omnicom five percent. Just as we were coming to terms with these numbers, B&T magazine published an alarming piece, writing, “The globe’s largest advertising companies have collectively lost over $US5 billion of their market value in 24 hours, with Amazon getting much of the blame.”


Sometimes in this cynical world of advertising there comes a stroke of brilliance that makes you believe – believe that all is good in the world and advertising is a great industry to be a part of. How do you know this love is true? I’m drinking this tasty DB Export Gold, extra low carbohydrate, beer for you!

Happy Valentine’s Day y’all, I don’t need two hands to hold you!

About Author

Graham Medcalf is a freelance writer and owner of Red Advertising.

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