Friday, 23 March 2012

Madmen they were. The greatest pitch of them all. True story.

Allen Brady Marsh was an Agency which started in London in 1965.

(My Dad was in Saatchis at the time and this story did the rounds. I have to say too, it wasn't unusual to see my Dad walking through the Agency after lunch with a glass of red wine in one hand and a cigarette in the other. The real era of Advertising.)

ABM was fronted largely by Peter Marsh, who sometimes welcomed visitors from a throne, they were song+ dance men. You might get a sense of that from them above celebrating winning Guinness and the "Guinnessless" campaign.

Top hats, tails and playing the jingle on a piano was not unheard of from Peter Marsh. In fact, you expected it. He had started as a writer and producer for The BBC. In 1991, the Agency was sold to Lowe Howard Spink.

The great story, which I'm often asked to tell to lonely advertising people, normally in pubs, is the infamous pitch to Sir Peter Parker and his marketing crew at British Rail. 

ABM at the time, were very much the underdogs on the list and unlikely to get it as it was a huge account. 

So ABM decided they may as well throw everything at it to get noticed because the reality was, they'd nothing to lose. And they did.

On day of the pitch, at 11am as agreed, the "serious" suited team from British Rail turned up at ABM, walked into reception to find it deserted. The stood at the desk and waited and the chairman, Sir Peter Parker, checked his watch. Yes, they were on time. He looked around, no one - just a very scruffy reception area. Crumpled newspapers, litter, cigarette ends on the floor, cushions with holes burned in them. This was the worst agency they’d been in. 

A young giddy woman appeared, brushed past them and sat behind the desk as if the receptionist. "Sorry", she said, "I'll be with you in a minute, have a seat" and proceeded to take up the phone and continue a chat with a friend about where they'd been last night. 

Phone cradled between shoulder and neck, she went on to explain to her friend, whom she eventually "went home with", as she filed her nails with a nile file found by rummaging in a drawer. 

Sir Peter politely coughed, she ignored him. He coughed again, she looked up.

"Yes?" she said,

He said “Excuse me, we’re here to see….” but our ace receptionist interrupted, “Be with you in a minute love” and continued the conversation about last night but brought it to an end quickly.

"Yes, sorry" she said, almost apologetic, "you're from the rail people, aren't you...Mr. Perker isn't it? I'll tell Mr. Marsh you're here" and proceeded to phone 'downstairs' to let them know. 

"Coffee?" she then asked, which was greeted reluctantly by a positive nod.

Up comes a girl "from downstairs" with formica tray, 5 plastic cups, sachets of sugar (now wet from spilt coffee), plastic spoons and a small cardboard milk carton with the top roughly torn off. "Help yourselves" and she was off.

It was all becoming enough for Sir Peter Parker and his team.

Whatever Agency they'd seen, clearly this was not the Agency for them.
Parker turns to the team and they nod in agreement, that's it we're off.

So Sir Peter turns to the receptionist and explains;

"Please tell Mr. Marsh, we were here on time, we have waited 20 minutes and thank him for his interest in our business but that this is not the agency for us". And proceeded to leave.

At that moment a door burst open and out stepped Peter Marsh, as head of the agency. 

He’d been watching everything. He shook the chairman’s hand warmly. 

He said “Gentlemen, you've just experienced the problems at British Rail, now come down and see the solutions". And he took the British Rail management into their boardroom and went through an all-singing, all-dancing presentation of how bright the future could be, if ABM was their agency. Which, of course, it became. 

Madmen Series 5, starts Tuesday 9pm Sky Atlantic.
Those were the days.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Highlight. And how I'll know all about you... Yes, you.


Highlight. Honestly, I don't want anyone else to tell me about it. I know,it's interesting and very, very scary.

If you haven't heard the controversy, click the Forbe's video interview above with Highlight founder (is a user a highlighter? just sayin') Paul Davison, 32, Californian.  

Highlight is an iphone App (no android version yet) which logs in via Facebook and was the most talked about at the SXSW Conference in Texas (South X South West. SXSW geddit?).

Talked about in a "Oh, I'm not sure" kinda way but definitely talked about.

What happens is that you download the app to your phone and it takes all your Facebook information. Next time you're within a 100 yards of someone else with the App (basically a football field away), it tells you about them, and them about you.

What they like, who you have in common connections, their profile etc.

Walking down the street and just forgot her name? Not any more.
Have a secretive discrete dinner date? Not any more either.

But here's the OMG! moment. It seems (if you and I are both on Highlight) that you can see my friends and I can see yours. 

However what that means is that you might be notified that my pal Tom, who is also on highlight, is walking across the street from you right now and you think, "who the hell is Tom?".

Click and discover is that he's one of my friends and that's what we have in common. You can message him. "Hey Tom, I'm one of Stuart's friends waving at you". He will be pleased. Expect a visual answer.

But one sec, I don't want people whom I don't know, knowing about me in public because I happen to be someone's Facebook friend. David McWilliams has 176,000 of them. He won't be able to go out anymore. "Hey Dave, I'm a friend of one of your 176,000 friends!"

Pity Lady Gaga going incognito to the store in baseball cap and shades. Nope, not anymore, she has 20 million of them.

So now I'm unfriending my Facebook friends who are on Highlight. All 3 of them.

So it's this balance between being useful and scary. Do you want that person coming towards you to know all about you? well, do you?

This is not, strictly speaking, a location based App but it does work off GPS, something I am close to and understand, having tried to develop gps/gprs trackers some time ago.

What I do understand are two clear things that Highlight won't have sorted, when using GPS;

1. GPS (and so Highlight) runs down battery life when enabled. BIG time.

2. It's not good at locating indoors, at all. So when you hear the highlight users stories about tracking a pal in a porn shop, don't be so sure. Hard thing to do with GPS.

And I don't think Highlight has got around these issues notably the battery life drain which will really upset downloaders in time. 

The other issue that arises, is the same one that always does, privacy.
But that easily dealt with, they say:

You download Highlight, you're in. You don't, you're not so if it bothers you, don't do it, they say. If you decide to download to be 'cutting edge', you can switch it on and switch it off, they say too. Yeah, right. 

But not if I'm just someone's Facebook friend and now you know about me too. That's a big privacy issue. Big trust issue.

However, one commentator has said that the App is just "too early" and it's something "we'll all have sooner or later". And he could be right. But I've read that many reviews, almost all of them irate right now. Maybe they're just "too early". And I'm sorry, I'm with them. I think Paul thinks Paul is a bit too early too. Add to that, I hate the logo.

Location based applications haven't really had traction yet ('Foursquare' to a point) and there's an evens bet that they will. Highlight is first in if that's the case and readily positioned to become dominant.

And location based applications are great for.....Ads. 
Ads as you shop, Ads as you walk past the store, Ads as you visit the bar....
So what happens when Highlight starts suggesting where I should go for coffee because I've been there 3 times already?
Hmmmmm.....Now there's a thought.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

"Draw Something" just sold to Zynga at 210 million

Sorry this is probably more of a Tweet than a Blog but after my blog today where I suggested that Zynga might be buying the "100,000 dollar a day App" Draw Something, they just have. Rumour is 180m usd + earn outs bring it up to 210m. 

Think I might have been one of the first out with The CNN Mashable deal too. So sorry, bit of a good feeling. Forgive me! 

210 million dollars. Not bad for an App that launched in February 2012. Not bad at all. Ad Agencies take note.

Instagram, Apps and 100,000 dollars in advertising every 24 hours.

Instagram. Yes indeed another file sharing, photo sharing, media sharing proposition and App. Like the world needs another App, I hear you groan. Seemingly yes, it does. Badly.

But what makes Instagram different is that it's purely mobile based (and iphone based only with an Android version promised soon). 

What it does is that you upload it to your phone, take a picture and through many different effects, enhance your picture. In particular they create a more "olden times" feel and in some ways create that Kodak nostalgia. You then share those Instagram pics across all accounts, as you do.

If you search it through Google "images", you'll see what I mean and stunning photos a lot of them are. Ideal for Pinterest pinning for example.

Sharing pics is important because as we all share our pics more + more, we want them to look, well, nicer. And it does work, really well, with more and more effects coming along each week.

So this is an applicaton based entirely on Social media activity. Social Media on top of Social Media.

But it's a great story too with the marketing initially driven by celebs (Justin Beiber being the winner as the first to reach 1 million followers last Tuesday. Want to see Justin's pics? Nah, me neither).

Started in March 2010, Instagram raised 500k usd in seed capital and a further round a year later raised another 7 million usd. 'Techcrunch' reports a more recent round raised as much as 40 million usd so it has got its "fans".

In December 2010 (9 months after launch) it had a million users, 10 million by September 2011 and now a reported 25 million users with over 200 million photos downloaded. That's what I said, 200 million. And was Apple's 'App of the year' for 2011.

So a massively succesful App that's only mobile and as yet, only iphone based. Wow.

Which brings me to Apps of which there's 500,000 in the Apple Store and Google with less, but catching. 

Story of the week was of course "Draw Something" a "pictionery interactive" style app launched early in Feb 2012 which has gone straight to the top of the charts.

And not suprisingly.

Yes it's free but revenue is generated from ads on the free version (you can upgrade to a non-ad version) giving a billion impressions a day. And wait for it, the revenue a combination of both ads and upgrades, is a cool, 100,000 usd a day. That's 700,000 usd a week and growing. It became the biggest game on Facebook last week.

Zynga, the biggest social media gaming company in the world) are talked to be a purchaser potentially paying 150-200 million usd. Not bad for an App started in February.

According to 'Techcrunch' (whom we bow at), there's others interested too so the talks have not yet hit that crucial "exclusivity" stage. 

But the point here is that 100,000 usd a day is Ad dollars that would normally have been spent on Tv, Press, Radio, Outdoor.......

One wonders if Ad Agencies had not spent their time more constructively building Apps? 

So ladies and gentlemen, the advertising model is changing.

The world is changing.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Live Streaming. What it is and why Content is still king.

Content is king. Probably the greatest cliche in internet history. But for a reason, because it's true. 

The best way I can explain why, is to take you on a short journey of my experience going back 15 years. Only, 15 years which really is, yesterday. But I hope it might explain the transition to content.

What I'm trying to show (yeah, probably badly...) is the manner in which the web started and the stages since then to today's stage, content. It started as connectivity for the chosen few, then search, then web design, then social media and then video/live streaming. So by telling the history, I can explain why we are where we are. Or so I think, so here goes.

At that time in the late 1990's, me and a man called Tom Kelly set up an 'isp' - internet service provider - largely giving internet access to the domestic market, called 'Club Internet' ( We were second out of the box in Ireland following another isp 'Ireland-on-line' ( which was a soundalike of AOL and had, 100 customers. Possibly then there were 300 people with email access - the killer app. I nearly knew them all personally.

It was all Cisco routers and the "new" Microsoft (1985 ships Windows version 1) and becoming largely MSDOS based, it was really about business/corporates scrambling to get a presence online then. Simple web design of 2/3 pages consisting of the classic "brochureware" with a huge 'contact us' button and nothing more. 

Even domain registry hadn't started so you couldn't promote your own site name as such. It was all sub domains ( So it was or and hence the need initially for search. Mad isn't it? Mad that it's only 15 years ago.

So it was about getting content up in some shape or form and I recall doing two sites - one for RBS/Ulster Bank and the other for the national railway, - which brought us the envy of our peers. We actually made the front page of a national paper, me and Tom, as the new internet pioneers. Swear. 7 html pages and we were front page news.

Of course too, there was no room for content, because of no bandwidth and so a new surge came in bandwidth providers as everyone wanted to get on board. Which was the second surge - connectivity and bandwidth. A surge that goes on and you'll have noted The Virgin announcement this week of super fast download speeds. Bandwidth is now a competitive issue rather than an availability one, exactly the same as the business of hosting. Anyway.                 
I recall well the first ever internet exhibition in a small hotel in London where we took a stand. 20 stands maybe in total, largely selling modem technology-based products such as modems, routers etc  (!) and beside us a strange looking man starting a search business. After the show we went with him for a few beers and Jerry Yang asked us would we like to get involved in his new search business. "Search? search what? some of these people are crazy" we laughed and we stayed in touch with him for years after. Until of course Jerry got a jet after the huge success of his search Yahoo! It was the dominant search engine quickly.

See, we were true visionaries....doh.

Once bandwidth arrived and people got more access to the web, the growth was in web design (or web authoring it was called) bringing sites from 3 pages to 10 and this time with navigation! Bandwidth moved on from the 14.4 and supreme 56 modems over dial-up. Remember the dial up sound? I do. But this was the design surge - the ongoing demand as corporates sought out better, more comprehensive web pages.

There was so much activity of all sorts, we floated the business on Nasdaq in March 2000 - the first bubble. So did 26 others on the same day, all tech companies. Honestly. Our IPO was done by none other than Lehmans. 

So now there was a base of content (websites) and then along came interactivity. Websites became a bit dull to look at it. After seeing one set of annual reports & accounts on one site, you kind of get bored.

We started to look up to myspace, started in 2003 and sold to Murdoch/News Int for 530m USD in 2005. Yep, that much and that's 7 years ago only. We saw Bebo (supposedly 'blog early blog often') and blogging started too. Michael Birch started Bebo in 2005 and sold it to AOL in 2008 for, wait for it, 850m USD. 

But the web had become content driven and entertainment became a use. People wanted to share chats through IRC. Content. Share photos through Flickr and now the Facebook wall. Content. Share videos through YouTube. Content. Got into search with Google to find content. Share locations on foursquare. Content. Share thoughts on blogging, vlogging on, on Tumblr. Content.

Content had become the driver whearas email had been the cliched killer app to start it all.

And then came more content in the form of Social Media notably of course, Facebook which, as you probably know, was started by two twins in 2004...Ha. 

Social media is of course content sharing at its best. I won't go on about Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and so on but you get the point. Facebook is 8 years old and valued at 100 billion USD. The second bubble is coming and it's about content. Mashable (only a "blog" they say but it's more) sells last week for 200m USD. Blogging is real content too so that's going to have real value. Or video blogging, vlogging.


So now that we've done all of that and got so used to clever web design (cool example is see, photo sharing, social media sharing, tv iplayers, ipads apps, video sharing... the next wave is live streaming sharing. Which is what we now do at Streamabout.

So what is live streaming? 
(actually that's the highest search term in our category currently "what is live streaming?". 250,000 searches last week so you get a sense of the interest).

It's taking events you're already doing - awards, dinners, conferences, press conferences, staff meetings, garden shows and so on, and then companies like us streaming them live globally online. Sometimes free, sometimes to generate revenue from the viewer paying.

You need production (filming) expertise, technology (4G/Wifi/Wimax and knowledge to bring the live feed robustly to a server) and a streaming backbone platform support (,, etc). So not something a corporate can do themselves.

As an aside, that's even changing as we speak.

You can stream for free on your Facebook page - imagine the interest and traffic that would bring - and YouTube announces 100 pro-channels for free in the US last week. After all, look at their slogan, "broadcast yourself". Google+ have 'huddles' and they won't be far behind since they own YouTube. A serious head-on threat to livestream and those backbones but it's because YouTube want content. They want your content to become a big TV online broadcaster. So it has value.

What's happening too is that you can create an event to generate streaming. In other words, don't wait for something to happen, make it happen.

Your own cookery programme from your ecommerce enabled Facebook page? No problem. Get your friends to pay to view and download your recipes. Or a former stock market buyer gives tips online? people will pay for that.

Or a former Advertising Agency guy? well, yeah fair point, it's not for everyone....

A show in February live streamed, got 321,000 viewers. Nope, it wasn't about porn, it was about coffee. Look at the success of Netflix and Amazon's Love Film as streaming. The story this week was about Amazons deal with The Discovery Channel. Why? Content.

(And I'm going to bet now that this is a play on Kindle Fire (E books) by Bezos. They're developing that device as a low cost ipad that gives all content easily. So now they're starting to accumulate content such as The Discovery Channel. Why else? Watch this space.) 

Last week's other story was also about buying content when Twitter bought Tumblr's biggest rival 'Posterous', launched 2008 again to give them a bigger focus on content. Nevermind the sale of The Huffington Post to AOL 315m usd last year.

Live streaming - not video - is the new content and what you need is an A to Z (filming to broadcast) business like Streamabout wherever you are. They're growing but there's only a few now. 

The second bubble is starting. Get your marketing into gear. 
Create interest in your site by providing better content and right now, that's live streaming.

It was only 15 years ago when it all started and boy has it changed.

But what hasn't is content and that old cliche, content is king.

Windows Version 1. It's been with us for 25 years and now it is an opportunity to do something great online and I have never seen it all change so much as in the last 6 months. It's now really at a hot pace.

Get thinking - get streaming - or get something else that draws attention and traffic. There's people out there getting ready to buy it.