Sunday 18 October 2020

Netflix. The Trial of The Chicago 7.

 Just out on Netflix and getting a lot of talkability largely because it's true.

It's a court room drama in essence, regarding Nixon era Vietnam protests and the trial of 7 protest leaders. Political as much as legal.

Really nicely done, informative but to be honest, not terribly exciting. Sacha Cohen does well. Kinda worth a look but the publicity around it seems bigger than the show. 

At least you know it's there! 

Thursday 1 October 2020

The Comey Rule. Now on Sky and well worth the look!

 'The Comey Rule' is the story of James Comey's time as head of The FBI in the transition from Obama to Trump. In particular the story around his involvement in the Hilary Clinton email server controversy and the Russia Trump investigation.

Trump famously played by Ireland's Brendan Gleeson.

It's 4 episodes and available on Sky Atlantic on the Sky player now. It's shocking but it's absorbing. Really, really worth a look but it will bring a whole new perspective on Trump. Another worrying one.


Monday 24 August 2020

The Money Heist. On Netflix.


This is The Money Heist (not to be confused with The Great Heist) which was shot in Madrid and when it launched, broke the Internet in Spain. It is the most watched non-English series on Netflix. Rightly so. 

Developed by Alex Pina one of Spain's best known TV Producers. 

It's an Emmy winning crime drama about a heist (would you believe...) and it's subtitled. But it's excellent.

It goes underneath the skin of the robbery on The Royal Mint by looking at the changing relationships between the robbers and indeed, the police. The robbery includes hostages so their interaction develops too.

Possibly too long but that said, so well worth the watch. If you like that sort of thing....

Wednesday 19 August 2020

The Great Heist. Just out on Netflix.


1994 and a $33m bank robbery in Columbia.

Not a million miles from 'The Money Heist' on Netflix too but this is absorbing and a true story. Sub-titled but do not let that put you off. It's smashing and only 6 episodes and beautifully filmed.

Really, one for these darkening evenings. Highly recommended. 

Thursday 6 August 2020

Fear City. On Netflix now.

  • You might be interested in The Mafia and its 1980's control of New York.

  • This documentary is excellent and over 3 episodes it brings the whole story into easy focus. Right up to the John Gotti takeover of The Commission.

  • Really nicely done, well worth a look and it's on Netflix now. 

Friday 31 July 2020

The Comey Rule. The Gleeson Trump. September 27th.

A two-parter with Ireland's (Howths) very own Brendan Gleeson as Trump and the terrific Jeff Daniels as Comey. If you haven't seen Daniels in 'The Newsroom' TV series, just do it. A fantastic series. 

Based on Comey's book, it has high production values written all over it. And of course, their collision course....adds drama.

Definitely one not to miss knowing Gleeson and if you haven't seen him in 'Mr. Mercedes' yet, do. 

This will be one to watch. 

Friday 17 July 2020

Something for the weekend? The plot against America.

Another weekend treat. Based on the Philip Roth book from 2004, this premiered on HBO in March and is now on the Sky Player and Sky Atlantic.

It's fiction, but historically grounded (if that makes any sense) and based around a 1940 run for President by Charles Lindbergh. You'll know him for the first solo Atlantic flight in Spirit of St. Louis and perhaps the movie with Jimmy Stewart (who was a real bomber pilot in WW2). Indeed, the infamous child kidnapping case too.

It's about Nazis and the plight of American jewry but really more about the troubling heritage of America and dare I say it, what we are seeing there today. Racism and anti-semitism but also a disregard for others who are 'different'. 

A country we respected in downfall. 

Beautifully shot over 6 episodes, it's well worth a look!  

Friday 10 July 2020

Get, Get Shorty.

Series 3 just out on Sky and it's all on the Sky player now. Series One started in 2017 and features Ireland's very own, Chris O'Dowd in the lead. It's crime, based on the Elmore Leonard book, but with a twist - more of a 'caper'.

This is about as good as it gets. Beautifully made, terrific script and a great storyline - bizarre as it is. Highly recommended by Streamabout Video anyway.

And just in time for the weekend....

Friday 26 June 2020

Brands after the Pandamonia

Stuart Fogarty is a former President and Fellow of The Advertising Institute (IAPI); Board Member and Fellow of The Marketing Institute; Chairman of The Advertising Press Club; Board member of The Publicity Club; former Ad Agency CEO and Owner of Ireland’s largest Ad Agency McConnell’s; Founder member of Core Media: Founder of ICAN; Founder of Club Internet (floated Nasdaq March 2000 as Via Net Works).

He currently runs AFAO’Meara Advertising, Admatic AdTech and Streamabout the Video Agency.

Après Pandamonia.

The iconic Queens pub in Dalkey is to close for good.

Another viral middle-class tragedy in itself, but as I walked past it this week, with my over ear headphones I remembered the last time I was there. 

The innocent days of watching that really funny comedian, Barry Murphy. Or so he says.

Now I did a little work for ‘Après Match’ programmes gathering old TV commercials, which the boys would funnily re-voice. You know the ones - Lyons Black & White minstrels, 50:50 cashback, taking the horse to France, like you see too, on ‘Reeling in the years’.

But it was a popular spot in ‘Après Match’ as everyone went “Ahhh, do you remember that!”

Because it was a bit of home.

A bit of the good old days, pre-pandemics, like the long hot summers of our youth (which never actually happened, but it is how we like to remember them).

The place you went at 47 during your “messy divorce”. Or when you were just stuck for a few bob. And the comfort of that bedroom you grew up in.
With that went the brands of home. Packets of Barry’s Tea in a pot of leaves, Olde time Irish chunky cut marmalade on the heel of fresh Brennan’s Bread, Marietta biscuits with real foil kerrygold butter. Mince from the butchers, bones for the dog.

I think that’s what’s going to happen now. 

The brands that will resurge first, are the brands of our past that we trusted. And with them, should be some of those old commercials. “I’d like to teach the world to sing” is awaiting resurrection. So too Guinness ‘Ta Siad ag teacht’ or Joe McKinney’s dance.

The Covid survivors will turn to trusted, (and Irish) brands, for past comforts as well as a sense of duty, as they’ll see it. They’ll support Irish brands to support themselves. ‘Buy Irish’ could even make a comeback.

The old commercials, revitalised, will bring back those better memories of better days and with added low production costs, immediate affection and awareness. Or the new ones should now reflect on that simple messaging. What the brand does and how you get your hands on it. Do not over egg the advertising pudding.

Old reminiscent packaging, will sell. 

Vegetable markets with people in aprons will thrive (or faux retailers who re-imagine) bringing comfort and value. Letter writing and cards will make a comeback, so too stamps, walking to the shops will even be fashionable.
 Books, real books and vinyl records. Camping, home cooking, garden living and public hug greetings.

Authentic pubs, wholesome restaurants, driven by nice welcoming owners and no longer, by pretentious Influencers. That game is over since we’ve had a taste of the real world and the new work/life balances.

No flashy Advertising either, tell it like it is with evocative emotion. The simple things of early marketing will return.

I tell brands that – go back to heritage, beliefs and history. Re-imagine your past. Because that’s what people will want now (they’re not consumers anymore), as the light slowly re-emerges. A taste of home, a taste of the olden days, trust and reassurance. A pint of plain.

The future of Advertising and brands now, is hidden in the past.

And we’ll even look for a joke from the great king of comedy, Barry Murphy.

(If of course, he still has one).

Wednesday 17 June 2020

On Netflix 'Da 5 Bloods'

It's out on Netflix and trending really because it's Directed by Spike Lee. A story about 5 Vietnam vets who return to find their fallen friend but also, some treasure...

However, woven into that is Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Black lives matter and a general story about black history (given that a huge proportion of black soldiers were sent to Vietnam, 33%).

It had a huge budget but being honest, you need to be in the mood to watch it because it meanders too much, we think anyway. One to watch but not one to plan a movie night around. Interesting but that's really our view. 

Monday 15 June 2020

One coming to watch - June 22nd 'Perry Mason'.

One to watch out for....a new remake of 'Perry Mason' starts June 22nd on Sky Atlantic. 8 episodes. 

The role was made famous by Raymond Burr but this time it's the excellent Matthew Rhys (from the 'Americans' and if you haven't seen that series, just do it now). Robert Downey was originally cast in the role but dropped out.

Set in 1932, Perry Mason is a down and out defense attorney but gets hired on a child kidnapping case....need we say more.

Wednesday 3 June 2020

New to Netflix. Filthy Rich.

It's just out, new to Netflix, a four-parter.

Is it disturbing? Only in the sense of the way the powerful manipulate, but all the content is watchable in that way. In other words, you needn't fear having the family around but that said, it's shocking.

It's based around the James Patterson book (a former Ad Agency chief) who features in the series and it's really revealing how the mighty thought they were untouchable.

Some famous faces rightly, come out badly. But it's a documentary that tells the shocking full story. Well worth a watch but it will, make you angry....

Friday 29 May 2020

Advertising Matters. Views from the Frontline, June 3rd 1pm


I live in Dalkey. So I was talking to my neighbour, Matt Damon, over the tomatoes in SuperValu during the week. He said that Hollywood was changing, it’s become more ‘collaborative’ and the super cut-throat business of movies was friendlier than ever.

I made that up.

I haven’t been talking to Matt Damon, I’ve never met him, but I have been talking to Media Owners. The CEO’s of the Daily Mail, The Sun, The Sunday Times, Virgin Media TV, FM104, The Business Post, Business Plus and many, many others.

Now these are people who are normally very competitive. They move to the other side of the street when they see each other and they book separate hotels. Getting them to collaborate was like asking Dominic Cummings to go to the Opticians around the corner from his house. Impossible.

But now? They are…and they’re all the better for it.

Al Green singing ‘Let’s stick together’ over endless commercials of people doing funny things in their homes, nauseatingly makes the point – We are all in this together. All facing the same Cashflow problems, Sales drops, Staff cuts, Landlord assassinations - but if we collaborate, it helps.

Reach out to each other and talk about how a competitor has got around a problem like yours or by sharing back office tasks. Previously sacrilegiously unheard of. And in the Media business they are putting their competitive streaks aside for the minute and getting things done, together. They are good people, business people who don’t dither when their backs are against a wall.

Advertising and Media Agencies are not and yet they are the most threatened of species – middlemen. They’re going to just plough their own furrow whatever it takes, as they bleed all over the floor. And that’s a mistake, because they could leave a mountain of debt in their wake for others. Never mind, a very long term staff furlough.

The reason is as old as the hills and a particular feature of Advertising leaders. Ego.

They don’t want to talk about their problems for fear of a drop in rumour profile or, share their solutions because, well, they’re theirs. They leave it too late to talk mergers until there’s nothing left to merge. And thanks to industry people like John McGee at IMJ Magazine, they have the zoominar forums, other meeting collaboration opportunities, but they don’t take them.

Their press releases tell a story of ‘Business as normal’, ‘New Business pitches and gains’, ‘Nothing to see here’, whilst we all know it hides a very public truth. Advertising is in the doldrums. And it’s not getting better any day soon.

Collaboration and talking, merging, sharing between former competitors, is their way out. That new sense of community you now see, on the formerly ‘nose-in-the-air’ middle class streets of Dalkey. Now it’s like a country village of hellos, fine day thank God and how are you. We’re in this together. Put differences away and seize opportunities. Advertising Agencies and Hollywood. As my old pal Matt Damon was telling me.

Stuart Fogarty is the former owner of McConnell’s Advertising, the largest Agency in the state at the time and a former President/Fellow of The Institute of Advertising Practitioners (iapi), a founder of Core Media and a Fellow of The Marketing Institute.

Wednesday 20 May 2020

Netflix this weekend? Try 'White Lines'.

New to Netflix, this is an English/Spanish mystery drama. 

A sister (the amazing Laura Haddock) goes to Ibiza to try and find out who killed her Manchester DJ brother, 20 years ago and it literally, changes her life. Sun, Pills, Raves, it's so much based in those dance trance days. 

10 Episodes but it really takes to Episode 3+ to get going but it's worth it. Really worth it.

Definitely one for the weekend. Trust us! But stick with it....

Friday 8 May 2020

Escape Covid. 'Eagle in the Sky' Wilbur Smith.

If you're looking for adventure and to escape virus talk, pick up a good book and here's one written in 1974. You'll get it on kindle.

No one touches Wilbur Smith for adventure and I've read them all, so this is probably his best (closely followed by 'Hungry as the sea' btw). Fighter pilots, love, Israel, South Africa - it's all here - as well as a love story that will turn your head. Pure adventure by the best writer of all time, no question. 

And it's an easy read. Just what the doctor ordered. 

Advertising Matters. Views from the Frontline.May 13th 1pm.

And another next Wednesday May 13 1pm.

You join here

Thursday 30 April 2020

Advertising Matters. Views from the Frontline. Zoominar May 6th 1pm. And it's Free.

In case you're interested.....Register here too

Wednesday 29 April 2020

Monday 27 April 2020

New on Netflix. 'Extraction'.

New on Netflix and trending #1 in Ireland, 'Extraction' is worth a look. If you're a bloke that is, looking for lots of shooting and missiles...and there's a lot of them.

Have to say it's so well directed by Sam Hargrave a former stuntman and this his director debut. But it's nothing more than a Bourne style thriller but mind you, in these times, there's nothing wrong with that. And this is, one of the better ones.

Thursday 23 April 2020

Netflix this weekend? Try 'Designated Survivor'.

It sounds cheesy - President and Cabinet gets killed and unknown politician becomes President by default - but it's not. It's really good.

A political thriller made by ABC but cancelled after Series 2 and then taken over by Netflix. There's 3 Series and Kiefer Sutherland does a great job. 87% approval on Rotten Tomatoes.

It's not unlike The West Wing but practically a new crisis in ever episode. It becomes addictive but then, what else are you doing this weekend....well okay, walking? 

Tuesday 21 April 2020

Lessons in Adland from the 2008 Crash.

Lessons from the 2008 Crash.

What’s a crash really like?

You see the early signs like we’re seeing now and you start forecasting variance analysis. The what ifs. And it all looks okay today! Yes! Some small cuts, nothing too serious and you file that spreadsheet, job done. Until that is, tomorrow.

Tomorrow, it’s changed again, how did that happen? So more forecasts, another spreadsheet for the fire and now it looks heavier, the cuts deeper. What has just happened?

The Client you were sure would go ahead with the campaign, doesn’t. Billing looks dodgier. Forecasts bleaker and as the crash/virus goes on, but for how long? Months? And what after?

The virus of uncertainty spreads in your head.

Then you think the time lag of Clients advertising again, whenever that is, and the traditional Summer quiet of June/July/August are never good, but they’ll be worse now.

Serious decisions loom and each day, it gets more and more serious. Bleaker and bleaker. You have to make the cuts that you don’t want to, and you have to make them now! Everyone says it….

And you don’t, you can’t, because you don’t see spreadsheet numbers, you see people. Friends, Families, people who’ve been with you for 20 years, whom you like.

I can’t, I’ll wait. And it gets worse. Oh my God!

What shape do you get in?

Hell on Earth.

What happens in the blur of a crisis, is that you go from being a reasonably controlled leader, to a head lighted rabbit. And quickly.

It isn’t just emotional stress wreckage, but it manifests itself physically too. Expect damage.

People are at you for this and that, the family are in crisis crying, the banks are on, the phone is attached surgically to your ear, the creditors are calling and it’s all down to you. Me? It’s not my fault! But it is you, the buck stops. And there’s always the normal stuff to do too, because the business is still running.

You think just weeks ago I was sharp and on the ball and now look at me. I can barely walk. I could lose a lifetime of everything I have, in what, days?

And people will know. My god, people will know…..and I have kids!

Now you’re in the depths of a crisis and you’re not functioning. Mental anguish, physical hurt.

You’ll drink the two bottles of wine tonight but you’ll realise the problems are still there tomorrow. So you stop drinking and work 24 hours for 7 days a week. Forget the weekends, this is way more important right now.

And you go home, to darkness.

So what do you do?

You make some cuts but not enough. Don’t take that road. Don’t kid yourself.

You should start with zero, and then you move to a break even and see what that looks like. Then you take another -20% off.

You look at today’s costs (overhead) and defer what you can. Who can I pay later who’ll agree to it? Chip away.

Media Owners were our big creditors, so you try and defer them but you do it with their agreement, you don’t ignore it. They don’t need your bad debt and they’ve families and businesses too, so they need to hear from you. You depend far more on them, than they do on you.

Not paying Creditors has real consequences (it will close you as quick) so consent is the only way around it.

But you have reserves (our cash position was very strong at the start, millions) But for how long? They quickly deplete before your eyes as you put off the dreaded decisions.

“We can trade out of it”, you think. But you can’t.  

The phone calls come in and you must take them. You must. All of them.

No one ever called me and didn’t get a call back at any time. But it’s hard to handle and that starts as an hour a day of calls and then by day 3, it’s the full day.

You try and sweat the creditors, keep the cash but they’re persistent too. Fair enough, but they too, talk to each other…...

5 calls day one, quickly becomes 25 creditor calls day three, they just keep coming as they talk to each other. “We heard you’re in trouble”. So is everyone else and they know.

So it shouldn’t be you that deals with this, it should be someone else or you’ll get stuck in that mire. And that’s a big lesson from the outset.

Other overheads you do your best with and try. The landlord, the pension scheme, the this and the that.

But now people can see it in you, they hear it in gossipy Adland who love a bad story. Even staff, whom you’re desperately trying to protect, knows and they tell people. Human nature, but they make it worse. They shouldn’t, but they will and now you’ll have a run on the bank.

I remember the first ‘Chemistry Advertising’ staff meeting recently for example, where staff were privately being advised helpfully, of stress issues. I knew about their problems within an hour of that meeting and so did you. Advertising is gossip and it doesn’t help. Staff are talking themselves out of their own jobs because it puts a run on the Bank. That fundamentally, is what happened to us.

Like the peasants in Lambe’s essay, we know not how to roast pork other than to burn the house down.

You simply can’t pay everyone now, but if you don’t, you have the consequences. You try to balance. You part pay some.

So you communicate?

As little as you can. Don’t call your Bank, you’ll terrify them and they’ll respond, badly. Trust me.

Don’t call a receiver, solvency expert, or even your trusted Auditor, because they’ll bring you down a road that suits them, not you. You’ll add to your problems. Don’t do it, there’ll be time enough.

Clients you call, but only to re-assure them that the crisis is everywhere (and this virus is) and you’re doing your best, like everyone else. Confidence, re-assurance, but if you’re doing it all, you’re a mess and they’ll know. They can hear it, so do it when you’re prepared.

And staff?

No, sorry, no. You need to get a plan in place quickly. A dramatic plan (to break even and then take -20% off) and do it, now. We didn’t, we kept waiting for brighter days that will never come.

It shouldn’t be you. It should be someone outside the business who is disassociated from it and just gets the things done. You’re the pilot, keep going, but you must let someone else deal with these things because you can’t and you’re the wrong person to do it. You’re just too close to it all. I’ve said that twice, deliberately

And what happens?

In our case it was different than today. A Competitor bought the Agency from the Bank through a pre-pack receivership, over our heads. I wasn’t party to it, even though I owned it 90% and I still have never seen the sale purchase agreement to this day. So you can lose control, it can go out of your hands, over your head. Shockingly.

To keep everyone calm and appeased, you agree to things that you shouldn’t that will facilitate smiling vultures. Don’t.

When you’re asked to agree to something, think why are they? Think, what’s their move here? And be ruthlessly belligerent. Say no for now, as a standard. You’re swimming with sharks that smell opportunity. They were there in 2008 and they’re here now. The ambulance chasers. Trust me.

In the virus, the only joy is every business, bar a few, are in that same boat. There’s a different ‘understanding’ and you can work with that. It’s not as secretive but that doesn’t help if you’re going down. Keep it close, do your thing quickly and quietly. With people at home now, it’s better.  

Is there a way out, an end game?


Look at a scenario of zero income and the cash bleed. Look at a bare break-even minimum and realistically see what’s really there in income terms and work back from that. You’re going to be a smaller business for a while again and get over it.

Then you’ll have cuts to make. Get someone independent who knows the business and make them.

Tell nobody and get on with it. Look at replacing services with automation – that ‘Digital Transformation’ you’ve been telling yourself (and others) about. It’ll replace overheads and give you an edge. Like Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn have.

That’s us by the way. Agencies and Media Owners should have Admatic Self-Op online booking engines. It’s 2020 (!) and you’re behind the curve that the digital duopoly has stolen.

I can buy a Twitter Ad now from my kitchen and be live in 5 minutes, but not a Press Ad, a Radio Spot, a Poster, a TV spot? 

Work every day 9 to 9 and sleep properly. You can’t go out socially now, so don’t do anything that deflects. You’re in a fight.

Communicate when you’re clear. Definitive action. 

And keep watching. Keep on top of it. The job is never done until there’s some real sense of normality. Get into shape and look at other options.

Is there a merger on the cards? We did 5 of them. They work.
Is there a part Sale? Maybe a division?
Is there a really low cost life ring you could throw to another Agency and get some volume back in?
Is there a loss-making division you could close?
Is there an element of the business you can automate now? Admatic has that solution.

And remember, this is not going to be the last virus lockdown. Of that, be certain.

And the other end game?

You collapse. The tiredness, oh the tiredness, means you eventually give up. I’m done. And you’ll regret that.

Don’t give up, keep going. You’re fighting and you’re going to fight until you’re killed, not before. That’s my big regret, I didn’t have the stomach anymore, but I didn’t expect it nor understand it. I really felt I’d been beaten with a baseball bat for weeks.

It happens like a blur, hour by hour and so fast - but if I was back there now, I know it would be different. I know I’d have done better because the lessons are learnt and the downfall is horrible.

People do cross the road when they see you, that is actually true, like you have the virus. Hero to zero. Staff you loved, blame you. Family life changes. People point at you. Court appearances. People say untrue things about you. Newspapers call you and you dread tomorrow’s ink. The man in the petrol station says, I’m sorry to hear that and you die again. But time heals.

You have to dust yourself off and start all over again – which you do. Thankfully, it worked out but I’m much tougher now and it’s a long time ago (April 16th 2000 in fact, I won’t forget). Ironically, Admatic benefits from the downturn as automation comes into play. Ironically, but so be it.

But even recalling this, it sends shivers up my spine to think about my Advertising Media friends and what they’re going through right now. But maybe they’ll understand, although I so wish they never had to.

There are these lessons, use them.

If you want to call me, just don’t hesitate. Do not.
But I say this to my friends here……

Never, ever, give up.

Keep going.

Get someone else in.

A cool head in a loose pants.

Stu Fogarty is a former President and Fellow of The Advertising Institute (IAPI); Board Member and Fellow of The Marketing Institute; Chairman of The Advertising Press Club; Board member of The Publicity Club; former Ad Agency CEO and Owner of Ireland’s largest Ad Agency AFAO’Meara/McConnell’s; Founder of Club Internet (floated Nasdaq March 2000 as Via Net Works); founder of ICAN; Founding Director Realex payments; Founder Member of Core Media.

He currently runs Admatic Ireland, AFAO’Meara Advertising and Streamabout The Video Agency.

He’s happy to chat at 085 7100458. 

Monday 20 April 2020

You've seen it? But have you seen it all? The Staircase. On Netflix.

The Staircase. You've seen it on Netflix but have you seen it all? There's 13 episodes with 3 added from the original 10.

True Crime documentary featuring Michael Peterson, a former newspaper columnist, for the murder of his wife, Kathleen who had fallen down stairs. Or had she?

Originally for French TV, it created a real Netflix stir when first aired but the follow-ups might have been missed. Have a look. And if you hadn't seen the original, start at the start. It's gripping.

Friday 17 April 2020

Netflix this weekend? Try this. 'Who killed Malcolm X'.

This is a 2020 Documentary and it's on Netflix, which is about, well, as it says. But in exploring the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X it's more interesting because it remembers the time. Civil Rights, Ali, Black Power and of course, the Nation of Islam.

It's also great for those, like me, who really knew very little about the man. And it brought about the 're looking' and probably, reopening of the case. 3 men were jailed around the time. 

6 episodes but very watchable.  Malcolm X was on the opposite side to Martin Luther King's non-violence and clearly a very interesting (and likeable) man. 

Well worth a look!

Thursday 16 April 2020

Netflix? Try 'Hunter Killer'.

Now okay, it's a shoot em' up movie with a US sub, seal teams and a Russian coup but as they go, it's one of the better ones. 2018 based on a book 'Firing Point' and it features Gerard Butler and Gary Oldman.

You won't think about it for days afterwards but it's a good way to lose a little time on Netflix. At least for an hour and a half, you can think you too could be part of Seal Team 6. Go save the President!

Tuesday 14 April 2020

A good book for the times? Antony Beevor 'Stalingrad'.

There's great reading in books like these. Not only are they true historical, but written like good 'Boys Own' stories (novels). So you learn as you read and they're an easy read. 

There's a few writers like the great Max Hastings, Simon Sebag and recently Sinclair McKay who write like this, but Beevor's 'Stalingrad' was probably the one that defined the genre.

1998 and it's about Operation Barbarossa, the 1941 German invasion of Russia and how Hitler so nearly got it right. His stunning start to the invasion, the hold up at Stalingrad and his ultimate defeat by fighting on two fronts. But it was a close call. 

In a way, it puts today's suffering into some perspective - and a view of the apocalypse. All of it is not good. 

One is left wondering was it really D-Day that ended the war or the Russians invasion into Germany? The Russians lost about 24 million in the war, the Americans about 400,000 so the scale and the crimes, in this book are beyond belief.

If you're looking for a good read, here you are. 

Friday 10 April 2020

Agencies have a chance. But it’s here and now.

I’ve been here before.

I know what happens.

In the crash of 2008, we saw Advertising Agency income drop a ‘mere’ -40% because, put simply, Advertising is the first thing clients switch off when they struggle. It’s easy. They stop Ad expenditure today, without the need for even a Board meeting and when they’re looking through their P&L, they see big Advertising savings sticking out like a sore thumb.

Today, it looks like it might be heading to a shocking figurative zero.

You can of course, continually tell them that they’re wrong – brands who advertise in a recession stay stronger blah blah blah – but it’s like standing on Dollymount strand trying to push out the waves. They’ll cut Advertising first, and frankly, if I was them, so would I.

When it’s a choice between letting people go or, stopping Advertising, which would you do?

The 2008 crash looks halcyon, because today, it’s looking like Advertising is going nowhere now and, when businesses get back, Advertising will not be top of their list either. 

They’ll be more concerned about getting their machines fired up, people back to work, sales calls, getting drivers on the road, putting product in the hands of customers to generate income, to perhaps, advertise then only when they’re paid. So there’s going to be a time lag.

Added to that, as we sit here in April, it’s looking like a summer time lag, at best. The 2008 crash took nearly 2 years to right itself.

Which summer coincides, as the horrible Ad gods would have it, in the annual June/July/August ad shutdown anyway. Most Agencies traditionally do more business in an October than June/July and August combined and that’s been the way for a thousand years. The perfect storm.

Like all businesses, Agencies have fixed monthly overheads (probably 30/40% of income). Rent the obvious one (I know Agencies faced with 100k+ a month rent) but there’s also staff vhi, mobile phone bills, likely 5% pension contributions, insurance, company cars  and so on. Then there’s the salaries representing 60/70%.

Deferring the fixed overhead now, is possible, to avoid the constant dip into current cash reserves but in effect, you’re just moving debt into other months. It’ll still have to be paid, have to be financed from cashflow later. That day cometh.

Staff salaries can be cut (if they agree), redundancy is a substantial cash cost now, so you’ll avoid that, and anyway you’ll need those staff resources too in order to provide a service later. Agencies are a measure of their staff after all. Your assets go home in the lift every night.

In the short term, the likely course is you’ll finance as much of it as you can from reserves and defer what you can. See what happens. Too big to fail. So were we, Ireland’s biggest Agency at the time.

A ‘holding pattern’ in the hope of better days ahead but with no clients today in the mood or even available for business conversations (they too have other things on their minds), you’re living in hope. Fingers and toes crossed.

You cheer yourself up with ‘what if’ healthy looking projections that do not materialise. Possibly government assistance will help?  (They will until they run out of cash too and bonds will eventually start to wobble). Or bank loans for liquidity? (They won’t because like you, they don’t know where you’ll be in three months). You think, but it’s all short-term. Then you open the wine.

We did all of that and in time, it’s worthless.

Because as no bright horizon appears, the debt burden increases and either you pull the plug or someone else does and, it comes quickly. We were trading on a Monday, gone on a Thursday morning. Four days. We should have acted faster and not lived in hope, and kept our reserves.

There is a way out. The change that needs to be taken now, is structural.

I have been beating this drum for 10 years – all business is an online business. That includes Agencies and if ever you needed the proof, look around you today.

The solution for Agencies is to provide their services online, as much as they can, without the need for high staff (and the associated other overhead such as cars, pensions, mobile phones, vhi), no high rent and frankly, better 247 365 delivery. Automate whatever you can and it makes Clients stick.

Client self-op platforms for Planning, Media buying (Traditional and Digital) in real time, Automated Invoicing, Online support/advice via Skype (to home workers in some cases), sophisticated Client dashboards and even creative uploads of Advertising material. Media Agencies can do what they do best in person, Media Planning and then automate all Media buying but with the same margins.

Admatic has that turnkey solution for Agencies.

You start now and you/we build on it. We do it with you because we know the Agency business. Backwards. We’re here to help.

The game has changed, the time is up, move fast and move now.

Been there, done that and have the T-Shirt.

It cost me 33 million.

That’s the T-Shirt that you don’t want.

Stu Fogarty is a former President and Fellow of The Advertising Institute (IAPI); Board Member and Fellow of The Marketing Institute; Chairman of The Advertising Press Club; Board member of The Publicity Club; former Ad Agency CEO and Owner of Ireland’s largest Ad Agency AFAO’Meara/McConnell’s; Founder of Club Internet (floated Nasdaq March 2000 as Via Net Works); founder of ICAN; Founding Director Realex payments.
He currently runs Admatic Ireland and Streamabout The Video Agency.

He’s happy to chat at 085 7100458.