Thursday, April 29, 2010

Kev buries ETS with smoking headline grabber

Kev. Come on.

We know you want to get less people smoking.

But since when did smoking, the ultimate symbol of coolness and rebellion, become less attractive when the Government tries to restrict it?

Sure. Raise the tax on cigarettes. You've done that today, sending the tax on cigarettes up by a whopping 25%, an average of $2.16 for a pack of 30. And we know from basic economics that this works. Whenever prices go up, there is an inverse relationship to the number of people consuming.

But Kev, while you're at it, why not raise the price of hospital treatment for smokers suffering from smoking-related disease? After all, why should the rest of us jealous lot stump up the cash for someone in hospital who's spent their life rebelling and looking cool.

We could have done that if we wanted, but we decided we'd much rather spend our time looking dowdy and boring reading books.

As mentioned on the 7pm Project last night, a brand of cigarettes called Death were popular a while back (black pack, skull and crossbones), while illegal drugs come in all manner of unbranded paper or plastic wrapping.

(Not that I'd know this from personal experience of course - AER Head being a wholesome early-rising athlete.)

But what this points to is something the fag companies know: packaging aint gonna make fags shift slower. In fact, Imperial Tobacco have already come out and said that there's no evidence to suggest that the brandless pack will decrease consumption.

However, there is a serious issue of how those who choose to smoke will be able to differentiate between brands. How will Tara Tarlungs or Gary Gangrene know which stick gives them a sense of prestige and film-star-like qualities, which one is the cheap, basic smoke for smoking alone, which one is the brand they trust to keep them looking rebellious and cool?

Kev, these are big questions for a smoker, and you're making it really difficult for them to choose their method of slow suicide.

In related news, some 'think tank' has claimed that your changes Kev will also lead to tobacco companies making expensive compensation claims for having their property acquired. So what? Stick sellers have admitted they're not going to be losing smokers, so clearly the compensation required is related directly to what something is worth.

Which, according to Imperial Tobacco is... well... nothing.

And if it came down to differentiation, about how to make one stick different from another stick, there's plenty left to change. What about the classic shape, colour and size? They've been pretty uniform until now. What about the fag boxes? Until now, consistent. What about the way shops display them, or the colour of the smoke?

Even something as subtle as the colour of the filter on a stick would be enough for a consumer to be satisfied that he or she has made the right choice.

So really, everyone's blowing smoke up their own pipes. By brandless packages, Kev's taking a vote-winning swipe at the big bad tobacco companies, in full knowledge that taxes are his real weapon of effectiveness. Plus, as my old mate Nathan Bush of BCM in Brisbane intelligently points out, it's a great way to bury bad news - like the scrapping of the emissions trading scheme.

On the other hand, you have tobacco companies crying foul, yet in the full knowledge that branding change will merely lead to yet another round of clever publicity-generating adaptation.

In its simplest terms, what we have here is:
  • the power of addiction plus subversive, fragmented advertising practice
  • versus
  • the power of price plus shock-tactic advertising strategy.
Traditionally, the Government concentrates on the bottom two, and as I've said before, has some way to go to make it's advertising campaigns truly effective.

If I were you, Kev, I'd take that $27.8m you're going to spend on anti-smoking campaigns and think much more carefully about the value you'll get while the planet burns. I'm all ears.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Smoke gets in your eyes. And so does lardy cheese-pea arteries.

Darned cigarette ads.

Listen up advertisers: Your target audience is anyone who smokes cigarettes. The best way to reach them in a meaningful way is through cigarette packets. When they light up, they get to see disgusting images and horrible captions that tell them they'll die a horrid death. It's about as targeted and timely as Google!

And you know what else? Everyone watches TV and views billboards. If you put an ad on there, you're showing disgusting images and horrible captions to everyone. I don't know what the stats are but you could have 60 or 70% of people viewing who don't smoke.

Plus, this 60 or 70% don't smoke didn't sign up to this. Switch it off, please. I'll buy a pack of cigarettes if I want to see this stuff.

Personally, I've just gone from watching pavlova on Masterchef to some kind of grey cheese being squeezed out of an aorta. Who is planning these ads? Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall? Bear Grylls? Armin Meiwes?

Where I used to work, before it went bust and we all ended up on the dole, our starting point with any campaign was with our target audience.

It wasn't enough to say X company wants to say Y, so let's make Y really funny and/or pretty and/or repetitive so it sticks in people's heads.

See, most clients want their fair spoonful of ROI. But they generally don't want to serve up their ads like an all-you-can-eat buffet cos it's costs too much to serve people you're not targeting.

The other problem with the all-you-can-eat campaign is that, while it's really loud and annoying and everyone remembers it, no one ends up loving you or your product. And, importantly, they don't make purchasing decisions based on it.

The reason is that you don't know enough about the ideas and beliefs of your target audience, and you haven't tailored your advertising to what they want to hear. People outside your target audience couldn't care less, while your target audience are cheesed off because you haven't worked hard enough to show them you know what they're after.

What the Cancer Institute NSW have done is produced an ad that not only is an amalgamation of a heap of old ads (cheap) but:

1. Isn't solely about cancer
2. Isn't targeted at smokers
3. Is so offensive it's flagged on YouTube.


4. Is on Australian TV all the time.

Who's paying for all this? Donators like me?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Getting there ugly - welcome to my world

I don't suppose I have a great deal in common with the Chairman of WPP, Sir Martin Sorrell. But I had to laugh when I saw his comment about 2009 being a year when clients 'got there ugly'.

Sir Martin, sir, welcome to my world.

For me, sometimes it's all I can do of a day to restrain myself from penning an irksome letter to some of my clients, and sign it off with 'Irked of Bellevue Hill'.

You see, what irks me (see, I'm getting there) is the number of Australian organisations that are happy to 'get there ugly' in recruitment comms, while spending a fortune on their consumer brand. For one such client, the disparity is incredible.

Client X (as we shall call them) are a big name. They have recently spent a fortune on a heap of wonderfully creative ads on billboards, adshels, newspapers, and so on. I'd love to show you copies of these ads; their agency has done a great job in creating that warm, fuzzy feeling about an organisation that in reality is totally irrelevant to the vast majority of the population.

But the thing is, their recruitment advertising is hugely inconsistent. We've done some great work for them, even won some international awards for the ideas we brought to their largest recruitment programme.

But most of what they do in recruitment is boxy, text-heavy, uninspiring and - well - outdated. Why the difference?

Well because they are so big, bureaucratic and process-driven, some departments actually feel they need to preserve the status-quo rather than take any steps to improve. Where we have made improvements, our contacts have had to have been brave enough to come on the journey, damn the consequences. And they've often had to field the spears afterward.

So my question is, why the battle?

For the eight years I've been working in employment marketing/recruitment advertising, I've been party to a crucial insight. That a brand exists in an organisation's people.

Employees are an organisation's mouthpiece, they are the ones who live the values (whatever they may be) and they provide the foundations for whatever product, service or innovation that company is famous for.

But when most organisations recruit, they segue straight through values/culture straight onto technical skills. They could explain a whole lot more about their culture, and attract a lot more of the people who would live their brand, if they only looked harder at the employment messages they put out there.

A strong, tight, integrated advertising strategy that makes people feel something will help an organisation attract more of the right people, and in doing so save money through increased productivity from hiring people that fit.

Isn't it about time employers started thinking about their potential employees like customers?

Monday, February 1, 2010

They're all bankers

So committed are Macquarrie employees to banking, that some of them can't get banking off their mind.

In fact, they can seemingly bank all day.

Some of them bank while looking at pictures too.

Some of them bank while looking at pictures, while Channel 7 is interviewing your boss. Oops, how embarrassing.

Check it out.

How bad to skills shortages have to get?

Would you want this man driving your helicopter? Because, it might happen if some current trends are to be believed.

According to the newspapers in January, you’d be forgiven for assuming that, for the recruitment advertising industry the worst was over.

On the 17th, the SMH reported that job advertisements rose in November and December, with Robert Olivier, director of the Olivier Group commenting:

This rise rounds off a remarkable recovery over the last six months in the Australian jobs market.

Then you’ve got today’s news, seemingly offering the opposite view. Job ads, according to the ANZ monthly report, have slumped a massive 8.1%.

But the skills shortages (and the corresponding socio-economic trends that put them there) haven't really gone away. So is the recovery over before it even began? Certainly not.

ANZ acting chief economist Warren Hogan reckons there’s fragility, yet expects solid growth moving forward. And Business Day reports that newspaper job ad numbers are only 3.4% lower than they were in January 2009.

Net figures also demonstrate that some 140,000 new jobs were created in the last four months of 2009. Seeing as unemployment has actually decreased in this period, this statistic means that new jobs have actually surpassed population growth.

However, these two variables (unemployment and population growth) are likely, in my opinion, to remain pretty level as the ‘under’ employed take on more hours (bear in mind that 30% of the new jobs above are part-time).

So there's some conservatively optimistic news out there. And it gets better for wannabe helicopter pilots.

Because, coupled with these points, is the (not-so-surprising) news that the labour market is at its tightest for the past six months – with sure signs of a move back toward the skills shortages in areas like IT, engineering, health, and accountancy. The Clarius Skills Index (from December) shows clear evidence of oversupply moving down from 45,000 to 17,000 people.

So the fella in the helicopter might have a job waiting for him after all.

All in all, 2010 is sure to spell slow progress, but I expect the market to have lifted substantially around Easter and beyond.

*** Stop press ***

New positive news from Shortlist:

Average daily browsers on SEEK were up 34% compared with December's figure, at 278,363. Total unique browsers for the month rose 26% to 3.872 million.

At CareerOne, average daily browsers surged by 42% month-on-month to 89,503, while total unique browsers for January grew 36% to 1.748 million.

MyCareer saw daily browsers increase by 39% to 75,338, and total unique browsers rose 33% to 1.448 million.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Even job boards have to advertise on Seek

I've been away a while, so I'm not 100% up to date on the latest stats on the major job board.

But the fact that CareerOne are advertising on Seek Executive says all you need to know about where jobseeking traffic is heading at the start of 2010. CareerOne certainly seem to know.

This also says quite a lot about Seek's rudderless dollar-chasing. They're in such a dominant position, so why do they feel the need to reduce their website traffic and increase that of their competitor?

Thanks to one of my team, Jess, who was the eagle eye who spotted this...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Trends for 2010

Very shortly, I'll be getting married, growing up, and buying a sensible family car. Yeah right.

Not quite true: while I'm getting married, I'm also taking ten weeks off work, travelling through India with my beautiful wife, then spending Christmas on mud island with my parents.

I don't expect I'll much care for my blog during this time, so I'll leave you with this stonker of a post, and encourage you to read through my earlier entries and let me know what you think.

I started this blog with no other view in mind than to contribute my views to the marketing/advertising/recruiting industry I truly enjoy being part of, and collaborate and learn from others. But what do you think I should I write about? What do you enjoy reading? Is it enough to offer opinion or comment, or does it need to be important, current and valuable news pieces?

Or should I just pack it all in because, let's face it, you'd rather pay Rupert Murdoch to hear his tired old hack's views?

2009 has been a year to forget for the recruitment industry, but one that has forced us to do as my dad would to say and 'take a good look at ourselves'. And, during some of the worst months, 'wash your mouth out with soap, you potty-mouthed young advertising exec'.

The future in a nutshell?
  1. First: More organisations that choose to 'do it for themselves' with supporting companies developing smarter ways to help this automation approach.
  2. Second, a significant number of organisations who need to grow, but lacking the experience to do so, and turning to strategic agencies (like my own) to help them close the gaps between perception and reality, current beliefs and ideal beliefs, internally and externally.

  3. Third, a return to creativity in recruitment advertising. The demographics of a tight labour market still exist, and it's time for Australian business to recognise that the choices people make about choosing a job are affected by powerful advertising imagery that influences candidate ideas and beliefs. Let's get beyond simply promoting 'benefits'.
  4. Fourth, a huge growth in employer branding work, due to the need for organisations to understand more about what they stand for and use this to work to produce meaningful bottom-line outcomes.

  5. Fifth, consolodation, fewer players, and a trimmed down, more transparent industry offering higher returns and greater value for money for your Average Joe employer.

As for me, I look forward to taking some time out, and getting down to some seriously interesting work in 2010.

Over and out.