Gray Matters: Mergers galore or not, Gillette again, Hell Pizza, 2019 predictions, Magic Talk and words to live by

Goodbye Ad Pie

Reading Caitlin Salter’s very good StopPress piece: Is consolidation the way of the future?, I was reminded of a quote in the Financial Times, which concluded: “Mergers between old media giants are beside the point in a digital world.” That’s certainly something for NZME and Go Media to think about.

We may not have America’s anti-trust laws, but the Commerce Commission is doing a damn good job of keeping local media behemoths at bay – Sky/Vodafone etc.

There is a knee jerk reaction to the anti-capitalist wave that appears to be growing in New Zealand and the West, and rightly so. But it would be naïve not to take note of the Marxist argument against market power, that is that dominant firms can earn abnormal profits at the expense of economic efficiency and social welfare. This is well laid out in a Needle article: Karl Marx and the Digital Economy.

With the destruction of so much advertising revenue by Facebook and Google, perhaps it is time to take another look at what best benefits the New Zealand economy and in particular, the media and advertising industry.

In April, Adweek asked: Will Martin Sorrell Be Remembered for Saving the Ad Industry, or for Crushing Its Soul? Holding groups like IPG and WPP gobbled up creative agencies and in the process seemed to destroy much of the creativity inherent in the start-ups that created great work but which often did not have the financial muscle to capture the big spending multi-national clients.

“Did Sorrell truly marginalize creativity?” asked Erik Oster, staff writer for Adweek. “It’s not his fault. It’s our fault because we all allowed it to happen,” responded SoloUnion founder Matthew Bull, who formerly served as CCO at McGarryBowen and CEO of Lowe London.

As we move into the uncertain world of a new year, perhaps it is time to look at ourselves and the decisions we make as media CEOs, start-up sell-outs, clients with ad budgets, and the rest of us in the industry. Until we value what we have, we lose the right to complain when all is lost.

Boys will be boys

When Michael Goldthorpe wrote about the Gillette campaign, ‘We Believe: The Best Men Can Be’, in StopPress earlier this month I was in London and saw how massive the reaction to the ad in the northern hemisphere has been. The message has certainly struck a chord.

The message: “Isn’t it time we stopped excusing bad behaviour? Re-think and take action by joining us at http://TheBestMenCanBe.org #TheBestMenCanBe,” resulted in a Twitter firestorm.

Tubular Insights summed it up well in an article entitled Nike Vs. Gillette: “We Believe” Ad Wins Big with Massive Reach: “This controversy has certainly worked wonders in terms of generating views and engagement for the clip across social video platforms.”

Coming so soon after the Colin Kaepernick Nike ad, the question as to whether the trend towards social media controversy for advertisers is a good decision has initiated much debate.

In the Tubular Insights article, copywriter Bree Bower nails the answer: “Gillette’s newest ad has clearly chosen Twitter and YouTube as the primary platforms for viewing and interacting with the spot. Now, unfortunately for Gillette, a lot of these interactions have been negative. Currently, ‘We Believe’ has pulled in over one million dislikes on YouTube, an unparalleled ratio of 2:1 dislikes to likes.”

Type in #TheBestMenCanBe on your Twitter account and you’ll see a striking divide between the responses of men and women to the Gillette ad, with most of the positive reactions coming from women, while there appears to be an overwhelmingly defensive reaction from men on the platform.

You may assume from all this that the Gillette decision was a poor one, after all isn’t the target market men? Well, not so fast. Go into the local Countdown or New World and stand by the men’s grooming aisle and you’ll see that wives and girlfriends are reaching for the shaving products, not just for themselves but for their partners.

Gender roles are changing, but that aside, men and women make purchase decisions differently.  “Women are particular about the brand, while men ‘compare same category products for specific features and price'”, says a J2 Store blog reiterating many articles on the subject (Google it). As the blog concludes: “It is better to focus on either male or female customers rather than on both, which will prove to be fatal.”

In the final analysis, sales for Gillette will tell us more than any opinion writers can! However, what I find particularly interesting is that the strongest defence from Gillette brand owners Proctor & Gamble came from a spokeswoman, yes not a spokesman, who (as reported on Stuff) commented: “Successful brands today have to be relevant and engage consumers in topics that matter to them. Gillette is using our platform to advance a more modern, positive vision of what it means for men to be at their best.”

Lecturing is the new marketing!

Go to Hell

Rather than the brand creating news, perhaps using the news to enhance the brand is a better way to go. True to form Hell’s unruly tourist pizza continues the topical taunts first initiated by founders Callum Davies and Stu McMullin 20 years ago.

“Make quality pizza, have fun, make money.” That was the original business plan as espoused by McMullin when I interviewed the pair for NZ Marketing back in early 2005. The team went on to win the Marketer of the Year Award at the Marketing Magazine Marketing Awards that year.

In those days it was the controversial marketer Matt Blomfield who inspired many of the more outrageous campaigns. He was responsible for 170,000 condoms being dropped in New Zealand letterboxes, which became the country’s most complained-about advertising campaign.

Today it is BC&F Denstu that continues the tradition of topical campaigns. Davies, McMullin and Blomfield have moved on but the legend continues!

A 2012 article from The Marketing People explains why topical advertisements can gain extra coverage for a business that they wouldn’t have received, and shows some interesting examples. It’s a wonder there is not more made of this genre in this country.


Trawling through the various sites commenting on the advertising industry, there is a plethora of predictions for 2019. Death of the traditional shop trumpets Adnews across the ditch, writing about creative agencies. Market consolidation writes the same site with reference to media agencies.

Further afield in Campaign, TBWARaad’s Reda Raad says advertising agencies have never been as relevant. But they must also be nimble if they are to survive.

Marketers are now expected to be intuitive in predicting customer preferences using data-driven analytics software while delivering relevant communication to customers in a cost-effective manner,” says Banali Malhotra, director of marketing and corporate communications at Rakbank – also in Campaign.

“Get ready: We’re in for a rocky ride,” predicts Ad Age. But in New Zealand, there does not seem to be the same concern or need to change. Perhaps I am out of the loop but is there too much business as usual locally? What do you think?

Missing press release

Amidst all the furore over the demise (or not) of Radio Live, Stuff reports a MediaWorks spokesperson saying they were not concerned about losing listeners.

Rumour has it this press release was rejected as not being magic enough:

“Old people’s music station swaps frequencies with talk station Radio Live. AM Show now on AM”.


The tweet of the week for me was the comment by a media supervisor at a mid-sized agency in Austin, Texas: “If you don’t have the money to do it right, you’re spitting on dead grass.” Words to live by – tell your clients!

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

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