She is a thing of beauty, no?


Not the kit.

The press release, silly.

“The collection features a commissioned artwork featured on the jersey from underground street artist Hazul Luzah. The design, in his signature contrasting line-work and free hand geometric pattern, throughout the jersey … features a combination of White, Dazzling Blue and Maldives Blue. The jersey also features top shoulder bonded tape … and a button shawl flat knit collar. The socks feature an elasticated ankle zone”


Bliss.  As ‘The Fiver’ succinctly puts it: Porto unveil their third kit with a blizzard of nonsense.


Facebook traded my data, boo hoo

The recent outrage over Cambridge Analytica (CA) demonstrates perfectly how we have almost completely failed to grasp how the Internet works.

The scandal erupted because a ‘whistleblower‘ exposed how CA used data derived from Facebook to refine the targeting for the Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum.  CA was also influential in Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign.

The actual scandal concerns the sneaky way CA got its data from Facebook, via a Personality Quiz which contravened Facebook’s terms, but that has got lost in the general sense of shock that the details we post on Facebook have somehow become a traded currency.

To which, surely, the only sensible response is…. ‘no shit, Sherlock?’

The Guardian and The Observer broke the story after some admirable investigative journalism.


Furthermore, they promised to uncover the shocking truth……

  1. How data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica used people’s Facebook data for political campaigning.
    Read more from this series
  2. How Cambridge Analytica is connected to AggregateIQ — the digital agency used by the Vote Leave official campaign for Brexit.
    Read more

I bow to no man in my admiration for The Guardian, but, as scandals go, I’m afraid this just seems a bit flimsy.

What do people think Facebook does?  How does any online business, providing services ostensibly ‘free’, make money?

The oft-cited expression goes “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”

I recall many years ago, when Facebook was new and exciting and relevant to young people as well as the middle-aged, Channel 4 made a documentary in which they interviewed some excited early adopters of social media.  The first part of each interview consisted of the speaker expressing their love for Facebook, extolling its virtues in connecting us with friends and loved ones, making us better people, curing loneliness and generally making the world a better place.  The second part consisted in the interviewer probing around how these advocates thought Facebook made money and, more pertinently, what would happen to the personal information collected about them. Needless to say the very idea that personal data was the currency was appalling and simply not believable.

Many years later, you might have expected that the business model underpinning online businesses – we provide services and we use the data we collect to target you ever-more accurately – would have become widely appreciated.  Maybe even applauded?  After all, that’s how businesses provide ever better, more personalised feeds and more relevant products.

It’s not just the public who have struggled to get used to the idea that Google and others are trading our personal data.  As Forbes Magazine put it, at the time of writing in April 2018..

One of the scariest parts of this entire mess is that our governing officials, those who make our laws, do not have a fundamental understanding of how social media works.

Marketing people are watching this whole story with a mix of fascination and embarrassment.  After all, this – targeting people as accurate as possible by using the best data available – is very much what we do.

As the inimitable Mark Ritson put it:

On the Cambridge Analytica ‘scandal’: In the past two weeks I’ve had the same conversation with several senior marketers. The marketer inevitably says with a sheepish grin: ‘We’ve been doing this shit for years’

Some people will inevitably remain appalled and outraged – yawn.  However, this particular horse has not so much already bolted but rather it has left the stables, grown up, had a career, raised a family and entered a contented middle age.

How to Buy a Gorilla

Procurement is back on the agenda in agencies (not that it ever went away).  Saw a review today (in the trade mag Campaign) for a new book by David Meikle.  It’s (among other broader themes) about how to make procurement work as a force for good, not just to drive down price.


Procurement is killing advertising, but not for the reasons most people think.

There are four problems with the way procurement has influenced how clients commission marketing communications:

  1. The increasing emphasis on price competition – this has had both upside and downside.  On the upside, it’s good to make agencies aware that they are in a competitive market.  On the downside, quality sometimes does command a higher price and procurement is not necessarily well equipped to evaluate that trade-off.  Moreover, agencies often have to pitch for projects without knowing the budgets involved, so it’s impossible to make realistic judgements around allocating resources and consequently how to cost the project.
  2. Pitching is often driven by procurement.  Again there are two sides to this.  On one hand, the process has become more professional – sometimes.  On the other, the pitching process itself has become a lowest-common-denominator exercise which misses many of the less obvious opportunities to solve the problem better.  There is often no clarity on the budget, there is minimal chemistry or collaboration, time is shortened to the point where quality is compromised.  And another thing…. the whole thing happens in a vacuum. And breath. All these points are either well-rehearsed or at least, fairly obvious.
  3. Less obvious is the way a relationship driven by or through procurement misses the traditional opportunities for agencies to add value.  Years ago, big agencies were challenged to have initiatives – things the clients wouldn’t have thought of (and therefore procurement won’t have commissioned).  Some of these (perhaps many, perhaps too many) don’t see the light of day. Others would occasionally bring a refreshing new perspective to a staid category or a rejuvenation to a stale brand. It’s the antidote to the risk aversion which is inevitable in a modern marketing department.  You can’t do this where every project is briefed separately and scoped within an inch of its life.
  4. Finally, the project-by-project scoped approach militates against the development of  client ‘experts’ within the agency.  The old fashioned idea of brand stewardship is no longer deliverable where everyone’s time is budgeted and accountable.  In ages gone by, new agency staff would spend days out with the sales reps or observing focus groups, not as part of a (chargeable) project but as part of a broader ‘immersion’ into the business.  Sadly that’s unlikely to be feasible now that every penny is under scrutiny.

So, if you want to know how best to buy a gorilla, the answer is probably to avoid or sidestep procurement.  If you’re an agency, I’m afraid you’re probably buggered.

Be careful what you wish for

I am irrationally irritated by the expression: ‘what gets measured gets managed.’  Not because it’s untrue, rather because it opens a can of worms which demands a less banal label.  A more apt form of words might be something like ‘what gets measured will become a bizarre new religion trumping everything else, however important’.  Or maybe ‘what gets set as a goal will send you off down the garden path’.

When businesses set objectives, it acts as a signal for what matters most.  So, in my business, if our goal is to win creative awards, we’ll prioritise the best creative opportunities.  It has implications for which projects we spend most time on, how boldly we present ideas, how we judge those ideas and so on.  That’s right, because it gives us the best chance of achieving what we set out to do.  So far so good.

This being the case, we need to be sure that the goals we set are expressed in a way that does actually bring about the outcome we want.  We talk about objectives being SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound).  This is important because most aren’t; they’re woolly, vague and a bit meaningless.

I had a colleague in a Government Department who expressed the perfect SMART objectives as : “On Fridays, I always aim to leave the office by 5PM.” Nice.

The bit that’s often underplayed is the ‘relevant’ part.  Because that’s where it can all go horribly wrong.  Let me give a couple of examples.

The NHS wanted to offer better health care and one of the biggest problems they faced was that waiting lists were growing alarmingly for routine operations.  So they set explicit goals for Hospitals to reduce waiting lists.  There was no extra resource – no more beds, no more nurses, Doctors or wards.  So it was a mystery as to how the lists could be reduced when an increasing number of people (ageing population, you see) were in need of more and more operations from the same facilities.  The only way to achieve the goal was to be ‘creative’.  So the hospital administrators prevented sick people from joining the waiting lists.  Genius.  So the well-meaning objective manages to provide a worse health service.  Some people call that ‘The law of unintended consequences’.  I call it not thinking through the objective.  The stated goal wasn’t the real goal.  It failed the ‘relevance’ test.

It happened again recently.  Schools in England are judged on league tables based on exam results.  This is how parents are instructed to choose their children’s school, so it is a major influence on the school’s income.  Schools have to compete for the brightest students who will achieve the highest exam scores.  But they are not allowed to be selective in their intake.  So how can they improve their standing in the league tables?  Here’s how:


It turns out Sixth forms all over the country – not just St Olaf’s, the school featured in the news story – were habitually weeding out weaker pupils half way through their course to maximise the school’s exam results.  Great plan.  What could possibly go wrong?  Well, for many years, nothing.  except for the poor students, ditched half way through their studies, with no school and no chance of joining a new course.  Their only option was to go back and start again, losing a year of studies.  These weren’t the ‘no-hopers’ you might be imagining.  These were most of the students who didn’t achieve a Grade B in their end of year exams.

The politicians who created the framework of incentives and league tables might perhaps ask the question: Is this a system which promotes the best outcomes for students?  I recently came across a fifteen year old student who was made to do an extra five GCSE exams, on top of the normal ten, because his results (being predicted as better than average) would boost the school’s average results.  Great for the school.  Terrible for the student.  Unintended consequences indeed.  He significantly under-achieved as a result.

These are public sector examples, so the results are clear to see and news-worthy enough to make headlines.  In the private sector this sort of thing is happening all the time; we just don’t see it.  Like businesses that set quarterly revenue targets which everyone strives to achieve – at the expense of delivering a profit.  Or on a bigger scale, any kind of short-term deliverables delivered at the expense of longer term sustainability.

What gets measured does, indeed get managed, whether it’s relevant or not.  So we better make sure it’s the right thing.

……Ooh ooh, stop press, PS, extra extra:

I just discovered there’s a name for this (thanks to Dave Trott and his blog).  It’s called Goodhart’s Law:

As Trott says: Goodhart’s law should be pinned up in our offices:

“When a measurement becomes a target it ceases to be a good measurement.”