Sunday, May 20, 2007

Media circus

Following up on mi'learned colleague Stan's point below, I think we should analyze a little further afield here.

I have long since held that particular vertical industries or indeed horizontal industries (for those MBAs out there, A & B profile companies) sit there in a permanent state of navel contemplation, believing it to be in the best interests of the general public. This is clearly not so.

Besides Stan's well made point about media hype, let me point out some other random bits of things that have irked my jockstrap over the last few years:

-- The media fascination with itself is bordering on incestuous. When there are whole sections of newspapers and whole TV shows devoted to analyzing other reporters' coverage of something, you get into a world where the watchers are watching the watchers who are watching them, and three dimensions suddenly becomes twenty. Before you know it, we have disappeared in a spiral "up-your-own" manouvre. It's cliquey and only a minority of people are interested (mostly journos, editors and producers). Sadly I must have to class myself as one the sad few who is interested, just because I'm sure if I had my time again I would have wanted to be in that industry.

-- Closer to home, I have done some time in marketing, both technical and marcomms. As I sit watching the TV in the evening, eating my cheese on biscuits and sipping my brandy and coke, I do what what most marketing people do -- dissect the meanings behind the ads and try to spot the clever bits. Unless it's Mr "Oxyclean" or "DirtBuster" who just shouts at you, generally these adverts are misguided. They are made by marketing agencies who think too deeply about the message they are trying to get across but manage to convince corporate marketeers that their idea is so fiendish that it will work. The reality is that most adverts look like they are marketing to marketeers and no-one else. For example, my old VP of marketing (as much as I liked him) was naive enough to spend $40000 on a brand new Volvo, because he bought into the "Volvo, for life" campaign and he honestly thought he was protecting his kids more by spending an extra $20k. He, out of everyone, should have seen right through the triteness of that. I know it's a tad brash, but if it makes things white, just say it makes things white and have a distinctive brand -- no rocket science there. If it has four wheels and goes like sh*t off a silver shovel, there's your USP. No point dressing up a one line logo to mask the fact that your product is either rubbish, a death-trap or over-hyped. I could go on about this one for hours so I'll leave it alone.

Stan is absolutely spot on. The media dictates the agenda and it shouldn't. When we have so many news sources, you would have thought that they would not be trying to out-do each other on the amount of coverage a particular topic gets but highlighting what they saw fit, not what the rest of the press do. In some ways this is why, while I hate the Independent's sensationalism, I actually hold it quite high esteem. They never follow the crowd. I hate their headlines but whatever...

Probably 1% of you will know this unless you were reading my own blog 18 months ago, but a little girl was murdered about 2 miles away from my house. She wasn't much older than Madaleine. She was conclusively dead, not just missing. There are still flowers placed where she was found to this day. It bought her all of 30 seconds on the local news and a half inch column in the papers. If her parents had been a cardiologist and GP on holiday, maybe she might have made the national obsession. But no, she's Jo Ordinary from 'Oop Norf so she might have her photo shown at the local Bingo Hall.

The disparity is criminal. As much as I want this little girl back safely, we live in a media-fueled back-scratching, circulation battle as to who can out-sycophant their rivals. Markets market to themselves and no-one else, unless there's a bloody great O2 sign behind their PR guru as they sit talking trifles with Natasha Kaplinski (who is increasingly starting to annoy me to death). Or if they can smell a profit on the basis of a public outcry.

Enter stage left: Max Clifford.

Gah. Sickening.

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