There’s a reason the first three letters of ‘content marketing’ are ‘con’…


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Marketers are a weird lot. We love to over-complicate things. We also have a strange penchant for renaming existing tactics and marketing techniques that have worked sometimes for more than 100 years, just because a new media channel has been invented.

Take social media. Please, take it. I mean, is there any media channel that isn’t social? By their very nature, media and the messages published/broadcast in them are social. After all, we don’t have anti-social media channels do we?

As you know dear reader, since the introduction of digital channels, the resurgence of the emperor’s new clothes is complete. Cyber-hustlers everywhere have claimed new things exist where they don’t. Fake thought leaders try to convince gullible marketers that human DNA has changed forever, particularly when it comes to consumption of marketing messages and buying stuff.

the resurgence of the emperor’s new clothes is complete

And of course there’s the great content con. Apparently until the internet, there was no such thing as content for marketing purposes. I ask you, what do the content zealots believe has been filling every advertisement, brochure, video, billboard, sales presentation, media release, article, etc since year dot, but content?

To clarify the content situation I have created two lists:

“Content marketing” before the internet

“Content marketing” after the internet

As you can see, apart from a handful of new channels, marketers are still creating exactly the same content they always have – they’re just distributing it in these new channels as well as the traditional ones.

So why rename what has always been done just because we have digital distribution of traditional analogue content?

The illiterates are creating the content

But there is a bigger problem at play. Prior to the internet, content was in the most part written by professional copywriters and journalists. Art directors designed how the words were displayed.

In todays content-filled world, every unqualified executive who can type creates content. They operate under the mantra of “I type therefore I am…a content marketer“. In fact, many marketers avoid using trained and experienced writers and do their best to get Josephine Junior, or a mate’s son to write their content, manage their social posts, create their online ads…

If you weren’t aware, the OECD Adult Literacy Study revealed at least 82.5% of the population struggles to read and write competently. Yet it’s these illiterates who are creating the marketing content.

The mind boggles as to how marketers justify their folly. It’s one reason why I created a couple of years ago – it’s an anti-content marketing, content marketing website.

So if you’re looking to create content…..


Here’s some more content about content marketing:

Why there’s really no reason to ever use the term “content marketing”…

The 3 essential questions for content marketing success

How the content paradox and your A.S.S. Time ruin content marketing performance

Shell’s content marketing turns 40 and still sells

Good manners will always trump marketing content

Why most shared content has almost no impact on your brand

When technology companies mistakenly believe they’re marketing experts…


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If you work in marketing you will no doubt be a recipient of the vomitron that is the content marketing of the “martech” companies.

I’ve never understood the claims these companies make about their marketing expertise. It’s the equivalent of a medical instrument salesperson claiming they’re a surgeon. Just because a company supplies software used by marketers, does not automatically translate into that company possessing marketing expertise.

After I sell you this instrument can I do a spot of brain surgery before I leave?

Many of these companies are highly successful. Marketo for example, was just bought for a casual few $Billion by Adobe. Generally though, they’re successful because they sell very good software, not because they supply marketing advice. They also usually have bucketloads of investor’s money to throw against the wall to get themselves noticed.

Ironically, it’s their “content marketing” that is usually the giveaway that they’re not too savvy at marketing, despite their posturing. Here are a couple of examples that arrived in my in-box last week.

Salesforce posted a blog laid out as follows:

You can tell from the headline, you’ll need to suspend your reality if you’re going to believe what’s coming. The layout is almost incomprehensible. The article claims to be “based on the shopping data of over 500 million global shoppers, we’ve outlined the five biggest trends that will dominate headlines this holiday season“.

I’m not sure what this means? Is it 500 million people in the USA who shop for things across the globe? Is it 500 million people from around the globe who have bought something online? Have they bought once only? Is it just measuring online shopping data or does it include all the people’s shopping? So many questions unanswered…

Depending in which country you live, online shopping accounts for between 3% and 9% of total annual retail sales. So if this report is only measuring online sales, it’s the kiddie pool of retail shopping that’s being measured here.

I also have no idea where these headlines will dominate? Newspapers? Christmas catalogues? Outdoor posters? Blog posts? Trump’s Tweets?

So the premise is confusing before we even start on the so-called “headline trends”.

The first trend is a blatant lie. It states: Holiday shoppers will buy more on mobile than on any other device

This could be construed as people who are shopping for holidays, but let’s assume it means people who are shopping during the holidays. This is an outrageous claim as it is nowhere near the truth. There is not one customer in a supermarket with a full shopping trolley, buying their groceries using their mobile. They are picking them off the shelf and paying for them at the checkout using credit or debit cards, and in some cases, electronic payment devices.

To reflect the truth, the claim should probably read: “Of the overall sales made during the holidays, the small percentage made online will be done in the most part via mobile devices.”

This is not news. Anybody working in marketing knows that mobile devices are now the preferred way to access the internet and shop online. This activity has been trending for the last decade.

The second trend is gobsmacking bollocks. AI-based product recommendations will drive 35% of revenue

How do these people sleep at night? 35% of all revenue will be driven by AI??? If online sales are less than 10% of all sales, how can 35% of all revenue come from AI? Gartner will have to develop a new section for its Hype Cycle. The “Fabricated Lies to Drive Enthusiasm” section. It’s just before the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” section.

If you’re interested, you can read the whole article here, but it won’t help your marketing in any way.

On the same day as the Salesforce blog, three hours apart, I received two emails signed by “Team Marketo”. Even the most junior marketer knows that teams don’t send emails, individuals do. How often in your organisation does the whole “team” sit around a keyboard and collectively hit the send button? Ever?

Even worse than teams allegedly sending messages, is a message that doesn’t include a telephone number. If your business model doesn’t allow for a customer to easily call you, then your business is at risk.

It’s strange how the digital marketing industry seems to delight in only delivering a less-than-average DIY customer service, while prattling on about CX and UX. That is, the companies force customers to search websites in frustration, while trying unsuccessfully to find answers to problems, because the companies refuse to provide customer service by telephone.

To prove my point I had to use Google to search for Marketo’s phone number and then call the Australian reception, as there was no number in the emails. A computer put me on hold and then a very polite person named Claire answered. I asked if I could speak with Team Marketo. Claire was confused.

A team preparing to send bulk personal emails…

So I explained I had receive messages from Team Marketo and wanted to talk with the team. She explained that wasn’t possible but she might be able to help. I asked how can a team send an email? Do they all gather around one computer? Claire advised it was a martech problem. Ironically, Marketo is migrating data in a Salesforce CRM system and the system can’t read all the data. So Marketo has to send personal mesages from teams, rather than individuals. Go figure.

At least Marketo won’t have to worry about Salesforce much longer, given they’ll soon be doing another migration to their new owners at Adobe.

I also have no idea what “empowering the fearless marketer” in the signature file means? Does it only work for extroverts? What about the shy marketers? It seems to be just another glib strapline to try to build credibility where it probably doesn’t exist.

As Mark Twain (and others) have said; “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail“. And so it is with martech companies. They only operate in narrow channels in the digital space, but they assume the whole world lives their too. So they only ever provide alleged expertise for a handful of digital channels. They never provide expertise on TV advertising, male urinal advertising, skywriting, railway stair advertising, radio, mail, outdoor, letterbox, blah, blah.

The reason is simple – they know absolutely nothing about these media channels. Which means they only know a smidgen about marketing communications in general. Their sweeping marketing generalisations to attain credibility are often more dangerous than helpful.

Here’s another that arrived today.

Any art director worth their salt, knows you never reverse type out of a dark or image background. Comprehension is reduced to around 12% at best, as it is impossible to read. And you never centre blocks of copy. You either justify it or range it left.

As for the copy, well let’s just say anything talking about “engagement” of any sort is a dead giveaway it’s likely talking platitudes rather than facts.

Email marketing success is relatively simple:

The “From Line” gets the email opened, while the “Subject Line” gets the message deleted. Recipients ask “who is sending this – do I know them?” and then “what is the message about, is it of interest to me?” Then they decide whether to open or delete the message. The rest is just process. You don’t need a technology company to tell you how to succeed.

Maybe the technology companies should stick to their knitting – delivering Software as a Service. Let the marketers worry about doing the marketing education. After all, I’m sure they wouldn’t let a marketer tell them how to design the code for their software…

The silence of the fake influencers and lack-of-thought leaders is deafening…


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Those who have read my missives or attended my seminars, are aware I’ve been calling out the online zealots and their snake-oil since the invention of the information superhighway. So here’s today’s polite rant.

The internet and all it brings, is one of the most positive developments in the marketing industry. Yet the industry has been infested with dodgy, dishonest and downright diabolical deceivers, the likes of which have never been seen before.

Though it’s been quite comforting to have a number of industry heavyweights step into the fray these last couple of years and join the cause for honesty and integrity in digital marketing.

But something struck me recently. Given the public revelation about the major players in the digital media landscape, and their lack of ethics around privacy, data usage and the real number of users, something was missing. To recap:

  • Facecrook – data dishonesty, deletion of almost 20% of all accounts as they were fake, lies about video viewership, the list goes on…
  • Google – preferential treatment of advertisers in search results, placement of ads on fake accounts through programmatic channels…
  • Instagram – fake accounts, fake followers, fake likes, fake comments, fake influencers…
  • TripAdviser – fake reatsurant becomes number one eatery in London via fake reviews…
  • Twitter – fake news, fake accounts, fake followers, minimal brand success…

And that’s just scratching the surface. I suggest Bob Hoffman’s book BadMen should be compulsory reading for all young graduates considering a career in marketing.

Despite all the overwhelming evidence about the lack of credibility in these channels and the ingrained dishonesty in the DNA of digital marketers, those who’ve arguably made the most money from naive punters – the alleged influencers and thought leaders – have been deathly silent in their condemnation.

To quote The Adventures of file clerk Ralph Mellish, nothing happened“.

None have come forth to apologise for their false opinionations unsupported by facts. There has been no admittance of guilt by these cyber-hustlers who stole budgets from unsuspecting marketers and entrepreneurs.

Where is the mea culpa? Where is the “content marketing” repealing the dishonest deeds via blogs, newsletters, social posts and videos?

Have you heard any apologies? “ah sorry, the truth is out, I lied” or “yep, you caught me, I was a bandwagon jumper looking to make a fast buck“, or “sorry, I made fake claims, but hey there was too much money to be made on the back of your FOMO” or “don’t blame me, I believed Facecrook, after all it was online so it must be true.”

It seems the only marketers making noise about the problems are those who have always criticised the opinionators, then suffered the trolls and backlash for having the gall to do so.

So if you’ve subscribed to an alleged influencer’s “content” now is the time to unsubscribe. Stop listening to them, unless they apologise and share the honest facts with you. But don’t hold your breath.

Interestingly, I’ve noticed some are no longer sharing secret social sauce. Rather they’re discussing “purpose” (the latest way to make money from FOMO) or giving advice on management tips, or workplace wellbeing – anything but the digital baloney they’ve been hustling for the last few years.

The truth is, there is only one way to get rich online. It is to run a business telling suckers how to get rich online.

Otherwise the real way to get rich online, is to do what those who get rich offline always do. They make sure their marketing activity does at least one or all of the following – nothing else:

  • Create new customers
  • Get those customers spending more money with you more often
  • Keep those customers spending money with you for as long as possible

It doesn’t matter what tactics or channels you use, as long as they are profitable. Many won’t be. You’ll have to test and learn. Nothing new here. And if you don’t invest in your brand, well that’s another story…

Ignore the fake influencers and lack-of-thought leaders – even call them out publically. Ask for your money back if you feel you’ve been taken for a ride. If they are legitimate they’ll return it to you.

Then remember this simple fact – technology changes, people don’t. Certainly not in the short life of new marketing channels. People buy emotionally and justify their purchase rationally – regardless of the media or shopping channels involved. Always have, always will.

Gotta go now, I’m downloading this super-awesome definitive guide by a technology company. It’s tells the 63 mind-blowing money-making social media headlines and content secrets, used by ninja unicorn mega-marketers to help you retire early as a thought-leading power Linkfluencer and best-selling author…

Here’s how personalised magazines always over-engage readers for an outstanding CX…


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Please accept my apology for the jargon overload in the headline. Back in pre-history, around 2004, I helped a number of competing print companies launch their Variable Data Digital Printers via a series of seminars, trade shows and other marketing activity.

This disruptive technology delivered what many now call data-driven marketing. It was simply the use of relevant data to digitally print personalised publications and link readers to personalised landing pages. An undigi-believable omni-channel breakthrough. But let’s just pretend data-driven marketing is only five year’s old like most digital marketers believe it to be, so as not to confuse them.

One of the most successful promotions and product demonstrations we did, was to personalise the cover of a number of Marketing magazines for individual subscribers. We also personalised the accompanying advertisement to the subscriber inside the respective issues, as well as the landing page.

At the time, the Editor of Marketing magazine said the covers were the most talked about in the history of the publication. They had never had such a positive response. He said subscribers were ringing and writing to congratulate them. It was massive engagement to use today’s jargon.

Leap forward to 2018 and a few months ago I was asked by Kellie Northwood, the Publisher of VoPP magazine, to be the Guest Editor. I readily accepted and suggested the magazine be customised for those on the database. Kellie agreed.

Well VoPP has just hit the streets, and this customised version demonstrates the power of print when it comes to engaging susbcribers via personalisation.

Here’s the outer envelope:

Here’s the personalised magazine cover:

There is a customised message on the cover for each of the key subscriber groups, as well as a custom background colour. If you scan the QR Code it takes you to a PURL where you can complete a survey. There is a segmented group title printed below the code – mine is Agency/Retailer on this edition. And to add some polish there’s a spot fluoro ink printed on the QR code too. The story of how it was produced is in the magazine.

Here are examples from 2004/5:

Fuji Xerox – personalised message on the screen:

Personalised ad on back cover:

Personalised ad inside the front cover:

PURL – Personalised URL:

Direct Smile font printed via HP Indigo:

Personalised advertisement on back cover:

.Another issue:

Penfold Buscombe printed these versions with personal message written on the street sign and the image of the relevant capital city in the rear view mirror:

Customised versions by State printed using postcode data:

VoPP stands for Value of Paper and Print. If you’d like to get a FREE copy of VoPP Mag, visit the website to subscribe:

I’m off to read this issue, there’s an interesting guest editor…

Dodgy digital dopes depend on “dinosaur dailies” to disclose diabolical do dos…


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What can you say dear reader…

Both Facecrook and Floptus use full page press advertising to try to rebuild credibility.

Who do you trust – certainly not the digital channels that’s for sure…

Optus, now known as Floptus, apologises…

Facecrook’s recent press ad apologising to the world…

The XXX way to easily grow your digital marketing career…


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Here’s another digital marketing case study folks from the “you can’t make this shit up” files.

As you know the marketing industry has become infested with Virtue Signallers and fake marketers who make outrageous claims and sweeping generalisations about the industry, to try and position themselves as legitimately having some sort of expertise.

Sites like LinkedIn are adorned with self-serving wallpaper promoting miracle ways to be a LinkedIn legend, glib motivational statements for instant success, secret sauce sellers, and “fluencers” of all shapes and sizes.

Given the apparent gullibility of the market to believe this stuff, a mate of mine has decided to run some tests, particularly to see what the automation tools detect within his LinkedIn profile.

He works in sales, most recently selling advertising in digital publications. Given the luvfest for everything “X” (eg CX, UX even FX) currently infecting the industry, he decided to change his job title.

As an aside, why do marketers suddenly have an obsession with customer experience? Hasn’t the customer experience been the key to staying in business since the year dot? If you don’t acquire new customers and keep them regularly spending with you for as long as possible, you don’t have a business. Seems UX and CX are just virtue signals. But I digress.

To capitalise on this latest X-trend, this salesman removed sales manager from his title. He replaced it with an “X”. He called himself a HX Manager to see what it might do to the bots that trawl candidates on LinkedIn.

It only took a day for a result.

He got a call from a digital marketing recruiter. In a very enthusiastic voice she said she was keen to discuss his HX experience, claiming that HX is a growing area of marketing. She asked him to explain his HX expertise for her. (you can’t make this shit up…)

So he did. He said it meant he was a “human experience” manager. In other words, he worked with people selling stuff to them. Bloody amazing stuff this HX. She was well-impressed and asked him to apply for a job she is filling for a global brand, in its UX/CX division.

But he’s decided to expand his HX title to something that is even more descriptive. He is now an IRLX Optimisation Director.

That’s right folks, he’s now an In Real Life Experiences Optimisation Director. In layman’s terms, he sells things to people. And he’s already had one job inquiry, thanks to the brilliant marketing automation tools being used by recruiters to find talent.

Like many, I find the digital marketing industry’s obsession with renaming everything that exists in marketing, for no other reason than there is a digital component, rather tedious. The industry’s labeling by obfuscation is more embarrassing than productive.

I find it easier to understand when people just get straight to the point, like Bob Hoffman does when sharing the truth about the digital marketing industry: “you can’t make this shit up…” is one of his most used phrases.

And you don’t have to make it up. The rubbish that permeates the marketing industry claiming to be truth, is pure XXX-rated rubbish, and it gives you loads to work with to help advance your career.

For example, you can call yourself an XMN – that’s an Expert Marketing Ninja.

Or maybe an XCXMX – experienced customer experience marketing expert.

Maybe we establish another way of using X, with a Roman Numeral bent? Just as the X’s on clothing labels expand with your years (X to XXL) so too they can expand with your career:

  • XMX = 10 years marketing expertise
  • XXMX – 20 years marketing expertise
  • XXXMX – 30 years marketing expertise

These X-options are unlimited, and guess what? You can make this shit up – because there’s a digital marketing sucker born every minute who’ll buy it from you…


They laughed when I said “blockchain” and “crypto”, but when I began to trade…


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OR  “How blockchain and cryptocurrencies are changing medical research funding forever…”

Like most in the marketing industry, I haven’t taken the words ‘blockchain‘ and ‘crypto‘ too seriously. There are many reasons for this, such as when companies like the “Long Island Iced Tea Company“, changed its name to “Long Blockchain Corp“, resulting in a share price surge of more than 200%.

The share price rose despite the company simply announcing it was investigating the technology – it had done nothing else. And of course crypto scams are so prevalent they have become an industry in themselves.

But I’ve since undergone some serious education and my mind has changed. You could even call me a fledgling cryptomaniac. To understand why, here’s a layman’s explanation.

Blockchain is defined in Wikopinion as follows:

A blockchain, originally block chain, is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks. They are linked and secured using cryptography. Each block typically contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp and transaction data. By design, a blockchain is inherently resistant to modification of the data. It is an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. Read more definition here.

Blockchain is here to stay – it’s no fad. All manner of organisations, including Microsoft, BIG banks, the CSIRO and more, are developing ways to use blockchain within their IT systems.

There’s even an ICO (Initial Coin Offering) – the crypto world’s equivalent of an IPO – for a blockchain-based digital advertising platform. Called BAT (Basic Attention Token) it may just be an idea whose time has come, particularly given the appalling dishonesty permeating the digital marketing industry.

You might be surprised to learn that “The Royals” are leading the way with blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

Pitch@Palace is a programme established by HRH The Duke of York. It supports entrepreneurs with the expansion and acceleration of their business ideas. The recent UK grant winner was Vchain Technology with an innovative blockchain capability for aviation security. While the Harry and Meghan wedding has its own cryptocurrency to celebrate the royal occasion – ROYL. The coins can be donated to Royal charities and will be used to celebrate official Royal occasions. #royalwedding

Cryptocurrencies are still struggling for acceptance in the general business community. This is mainly due to the fact there have been so many scams and thefts in its infancy. But just as the original dot.con was chock full of scammers prior to the crash, before maturing to web 2.0, cryptocurrencies are going to undergo some changes and eventually become legitimate. The cryptocurrency market is currently valued at around $500 Billion, but changes erratically.

Goldman Sachs recently announced it was opening a cryptocurrency trading desk, as did the NY Stock Exchange. And when “influencers” such as the Royal Family gets involved, you know it’s getting serious.

Last month’s Australian issue of Marketing Magazine was “the money issue”. It lead with stories on blockchain and cryptocurrencies and their impact on marketing. Other publications have also featured articles, as blockchain is now almost a marketing buzzword – Mumbrella; Ad News; BandT.

Obviously there is still much to do, to develop blockchain and associated cryptocurencies, and there are many detractors and unbelievers. But marketers need take note, as there’s definitely something blowin’ in the wind – and here is an excellent example:

Medical and scientific research funding changes forever

HeartChain is planning to revolutionise medical and bio-tech research funding using blockchain, smart contracts and cryptocurrency. It has created HeartChain Tokens (HCT), to radically alter the way medical and biotech researchers get early-stage funding and bring products to market faster. Their business model could not exist without this new technology.

In simple terms, individuals and organisations buy HCT as part of an ICO, to get “membership” to the HeartChain platform. The platform will hold all the information about separate medical and bio-tech research projects that are looking for funding at early-stage development.

The projects are selected by HeartChain management, all of whom have decades of experience financing medical and bio-tech start-ups. They choose projects most likely to succeed in getting their products to market. HeartChain members can then buy Innovation Project Tokens (IPT) via ICOs for each of the individual research projects on the platform.

The IPT represent ownership of the new product being developed at early-stage development cost. When the product comes to market the owner of the IPT has three options:

  • use the product themselves
  • donate the product to someone who can use it
  • redeem the token for the market rate of the product

This means IPT owners don’t have to be people or organisations just looking for a financial benefit. The owners could simple have a philanthropic reason for supporting the research project. From a marketing point of view, this gives the proposition more value and credibility, which is important in this emerging category.

The reason HeartChain has a high likelihood of success is simple – it solves a problem. Most apps fail because they don’t solve a problem. It will be the same in the blockchain/crypto world – unless the new technology solves a problem it won’t succeed, despite its capabilities.

Medical research funding has been chronically ill for decades

Instead of focusing on their research, the researchers, doctors and scientists waste more than half their valuable time chasing funding from venture capitalists, government grants or generous benefactors. More often than not, they don’t get the funding and their vital research projects grind to a halt. This has serious consequences for society in terms of health issues, quality of life and associated costs to care for those who are chronically ill.

HeartChain aims to get early-stage funding directly to the innovation projects, so the researchers can focus 100% of their time on discovering medical and bio-tech breakthroughs, rather than wasting their time chasing funding. The funds are also non-dilutive and off balance sheet, so are much easier for accounting purposes.

Time will tell how successful HeartChain will be, but given the momentum for the blockchain and cryptocurrency category, it feels more likely HeartChain will create an entirely new way to finance medical research, and that has to be good for humanity.

Plus, the founders are obviously very smart. Unlike most, they have contracted a marketer, not technologists, to do their marketing.

Gotta go now, where’s my ethereum wallet…

Maybe public servants should attend marketing training and stay for the duration…


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Recently I was invited to tender to write the copy for a regional tourism website in NSW. The brief was strange to say the least.

A wireframe or site map were not available. This, as you would guess dear reader, makes it a tad difficult to estimate the amount of writing to be done for the job.

Sadly the brief included personas, though curiously no reference to whether they were right or left-handed. The personas are just a manufactured marketing label describing the typical prospect. You know what they’re like – they never use language used by humans. Whoever invented the term “persona” needs to be <fill in the blank>.

It gets better. The required outcomes for the copy were:

  • Increased website traffic and engagement with social channels
  • Improved user experience
  • Increased lead generation
  • Increased response rates via offers and calls to action
  • Increase lead conversion
  • Increase database – number of subscribers and social media sign up

All of these have everything to do with how well the site is promoted. The copy will help deliver the results, but only when people get to the site. Nothing was given regarding promotion of the site.

A brand style guide was also supplied – and it spoke volumes. Here are four headlines from the guide for the STATIONERY section. Obviously editing or proofing are not big priorities:

It appeared both the agency that developed the style guide and the marketing people who commissioned and use it at the council, are standing still when it comes to detail. Not much care factor.

It reminded me of a seminar I once ran in Canberra. It was about direct marketing and copywriting. The majority of the delegates were from the Commonwealth, and the ACT public services.

The seminar was advertised to run from 9am to 5pm. But at 4pm, something strange started to happen. Most of the delegates started to check their watches and fidgeting in their seats. By 4.15pm they were packing their bags. At exactly 4.21pm they stood up to leave.

My day is done, I’m not here to learn…

When I asked them what they were doing, they answered in unison “we’re not paid to work past 4.21pm, so we’re going home“. I argued that the seminar went til 5pm and the tickets had been paid for by their department for them to attend until 5pm. One assumes the tickets were bought on the understanding the delegates would attend the full day.

It was like I was living in a parallel universe speaking an alien language. These public servants could not comprehend “working” outside the hours they were being paid. It was a foreign concept.

Bugger the fact they might learn something to help their careers. They viewed attending a seminar, not as professional development, but just another way to spend time to get a pay packet – without a care about the details.

I did run until 5pm and those that stayed thanked me for doing so. But to say I was gobsmacked would be an understatement. Others might say I was naive.

Then today, as I was writing this article, I received this email. I get regular requests like this because I run a “content team” for an online publisher.

Hello there!
I’m writing from Destination Blah. Destination Blah is the lead government agency for the Blah tourism and major events sector. We have two key consumer websites – and

I’m reaching out to see if you’re currently accepting guest posts on your site? We have a content team dedicated to providing accurate and thorough information about different areas of Blah, and we would love the opportunity to share our experiences with the area.

I look forward to hearing what you think, and discussing further.

Best regards,

Blah Digital Team

This is depressing in soo many ways:

1. The email starts in the personal (I’m writing) then moves to the plural (we have a content team…we would love…) then back to singular (I look forward…) It doesn’t build confidence in Blah’s content team’s writing skills.
2. The final sentence said ” I look forward to hearing …” but the signature file is not a person, it’s a phrase – Blah Digital Team.
3. The cardinal rule of email marketing is “teams never send emails” – individuals do. I’ve written about this before.
4. “…we would love the opportunity to share our experiences with the area.” Share your experiences with what area?
5. The only time you should ever use “reach out” is if you are singing with the Four Tops – “reach out I’ll be there”. You risk offending people when you try to “reach out” to them. It’s such a creepy phrase.

The only time “Reach Out” should be used in business…

But back to the copywriting tender. I did submit a simple proposal based on the “brief”, though without much expectation. Even included at no extra cost, hiring a final year marketing degeree student from the town’s university, as part of my “Auld Head – Young Shoulders” programme. It gives undergraduates and graduates paid work experience, at excellent value for clients.

The date passed when the successful tenderer was announced. It took three days of chasing past the announcement date to get an answer. We didn’t get the business, but wasn’t surprised. Apparently the job was awarded to a PR agency.

Hope they can proofread…or maybe it’s not a required outcome?

Why marketers should be wary of taxi drivers and toilets…


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Republished with the link to the original David Ogilvy tape.

This story starts close to home in Australia. There are two brothers who work for a television network in Sydney. They are known in the industry as the “Boring Brothers” because quite simply, they are the dullest males on TV. They make airport runway tarmac positively fascinating.

This week they are in the media spotlight because of an animated conversation between themselves. It was recorded or noted, by the Uber driver who was driving one of them home. Apparently, in their conversation, they dumped quite a bit of doo-doo on their colleagues and management, while bigging themselves up as something way above their pay grade.

No sir, I’m not recording your conversation…

As a result, their competitors in the media are having a field day.

It reminded me of the lengths advertising agencies used to go to during pitches for new business. Sometimes it involved fake taxi drivers, while other times it was hidden spies in the loo.

If the pitch was at the agency, more often than not the prospective client would get a taxi to the presentation. Agencies would even fabricate lies that their car park was under repair, so clients couldn’t drive to the meeting.

Once the pitch was over, the agency would offer to call a taxi. Said taxi would either be driven by an agency person, or the taxi driver would be tasked with recording the conversation on the way from the agency back to the client’s office. The driver would be given a financial reward for their co-operation.

So, how was your meeting?

Nothing was too sacred when it came to getting inside information.

Now, unless you’re an old-time Ogilvy staffer, you wouldn’t know that David Ogilvy turned down Chester Carlson’s sales manager when he came to Ogilvy & Mather asking if the agency would advertise the company’s new invention. FYI Chester invented xerography and was the founder of the Xerox company. David arrogantly turned Hector away, because he hadn’t heard of his company or product, something he always regretted.

For a number of years the agency I ran, Ogilvy & Mather Direct, held the Xerox account in Australia. Then Xerox decided to invest in a branding campaign, so Ogilvy & Mather (the ad agency) wanted in on the pitch. Given David’s history with Xerox, the agency thought it would be a good idea to get him to record a video message of regret, encouraging Xerox to appoint O&M to the business.

This video will impress those Xeroids…

David obliged and the tape arrived by courier from his office in Paris – things were different in those days. You can view the 2-minute tape here. It was used to open the presentation and it put the agency team in a very positive mood. It was a coup to be sure, to have the great man David Ogilvy attending the meeting virtually, and apologising for his errant ways from decades earlier.

During a scheduled break in the pitch, the agency did what all agencies did, placed spies in cubicles in the toilets, to listen for any juicy insights. Two Xeroids entered the male toilet and stood at the urinal. The agency spy was poised on the loo to capture useful tidbits.

I will record every word they say…

One Xeroid asked the other, “what do you think of the presentation so far?” The other replied, “pretty good, but who was the old guy in the video tape?

The spy couldn’t flush fast enough and get to the agency MD before the restart, to advise the horrifying news – the agency coup de grace had flopped. Everyone at O&M knew who David Ogilvy was, as it was a career-limiting move not to know. But the agency team had mistakenly assumed everyone at Xerox would know too. Of course a sales manager from Xerox wouldn’t have a clue.

I shared this story with D.O. at a meeting with him in NY a year later. He just smiled and said, “well we can’t all be worldly fellows can we.

The agency did get the business. My final role in the pitch had something to do with wearing a turkey suit, but that’s another story.

Gotta get to a meeting. Should I call a cab?