October, 2012

Skyfall

So four years later, we finally get a new Bond film. And what a cracker to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the series. I think it’s worth saying that I think you’re best off if you don’t know the plot in advance. So I’d recommend not reading a great deal further until you’ve seen it (if you’re planning to), except to know that I really liked it.
Everything about Quantum of Solace is forgotten – especially since it was such a collosal misstep after Casino Royale.
Skyfall, officially the 23rd film in the sequence is right on form and has very quickly jumped into the top tier of Bond films. And by that, I mean the likes of From Russia with Love and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (sadly the more I see of the Moore films, the less I like them. I recently re-watched The Spy Who Loved Me, and it really isn’t the film I loved as a child when I had that Lotus Espirit car – do these really go for £50 upwards now?!).
We get one of those great action sequences to open with in an epic chase through the streets and over the rooftops of Istanbul. But soon we’re back in Britain and we begin to get an idea of where the film is going as a cyber-attacker is doing more than simply DoS attacks on MI6 servers.
Something in M’s past is coming back to haunt her. Soon we’re in Shanghai, and here Sam Mendes and director of photography Roger Deakin absolutely earned their money. The sequence at the top of a skyscraper is simply gorgeous, and I don’t know if that casino in Macau really exists, but I know I want to arrive in a boat the way Bond does if I ever do go there. And the enemy lair is truly extraordinary.
The performances are excellent – led by Daniel Craig who is adopting an even harder version of Connery in the roll. We know that it’s a new world – Judi Dench’s M spells it out at one point in a hearing (I couldn’t help comparing and contrasting with last week’s Thick of It hearing). Javier Bardem is in no way the by-the-numbers criminal we’ve had a few too many of recently. He’s got some issues that need sorting, and while he’s wealthy, he doesn’t have a hollowed out volcano or anything. And you’ve got to love Ben Whishaw in anything you see him in. When he tells Bond that they don’t do exploding pens anymore it’s acknowledging a new found realism in these films. While Bourne might have given Bond a bit of a kicking to get the series up to date, it’s clear that with Skyfall they’ve exceeded the Bourne films, and certainly the thoroughly disappointing recent addition to the series.
What I really liked is that the film had something of a heart, and wasn’t just a way to link up one action sequence after another. Bond films do have a formula, but they’ve felt able to play with that formula a little. And that means that you do actually worry that Bond might not make it out of various situations intact. That’s actually really hard considering that he’s a super-agent who’s made it successfully through 22 other missions, and with John Logan, part of the writing team on this film, now being hard at work on 24 and 25, there’s plenty more to come. There’s always something delicious in the certainty you get at the end of a Bond film: “James Bond Will Return.”
If I had one slight issue with the film, it’s “Skyfall” itself. It’s clear as soon as you see it that it’s not long for this world, and was clearly built by the production. I don’t know why I knew it, but I did as soon as I saw it.
Interestingly, I noticed credits for miniatures, and it’s good to see that they’re still being used. Overall, the effects are superb. You really believe that MI6 has been blown up when you know it must be CGI. It’s just very realistic.
Even the vast array of product placement opportunities aren’t distracting and are worked into the plot on a reasonable basis. Bond might drink a beer at one point, but when he’s in his [Tom Ford] dinner jacket, he of course drinks a Vodka Martini.
So an excellent return to form, and one of the best Bond films ever.
An aside. I went to an early morning screening of this film on a Sunday. And there’s much to be recommended about going to these showings. First of all, just about everyone in the cinema is there to see the film and not check their mobile. Let’s face it, you’re probably not fielding too many texts at 10am on Sunday morning. You also have the lack of “Unlimited” patrons – aka kids that hang around going in and out of different screens all day long. And people eat less too. The average person seemed to drinking a hot beverage rather than a bucket of popcorn. Aside from the bloke who plonked himself right down behind me, and did precisely that, munching noisily through many of the quiet sequences. Honestly – who wants popcorn in the morning? Still a much improved cinema experience than going in the afternoon.
A further aside. I see that my local cinema is getting an “IMAX” screen. I assume that rather than knocking down part of the building and rebuilding it on a monumental scale, they really mean that it’ll be getting some kind of refitted screen with various IMAX approved kit installed. Sadly, the one thing we won’t be getting locally is a large “IMAX” screen. As far as I can see, IMAX is becoming the new THX in that they specify how a theatre needs to be fitted out, and it gets the stamp of approval. What it won’t be capable of is screening The Dark Knight Rises in the manner I saw it at the BFI IMAX Waterloo. What they will be able to do is charge me extra to see films screened there. As IMAX themselves say, Hollywood films (including Skyfall) are typically “remastered” in the IMAX format. To me, that’s a bit like watching a DVD through a Blu-ray player that “upscales” the DVD into HD quality. If it wasn’t shot with an IMAX camera, it’s not really IMAX as far as I’m concerned.

RAJAR Q3 2012

RAJAR
As the long nights begin to draw in, it’s time for RAJAR again.
There has been a not insignificant amount of uncertainty as to what this quarter would bring, as it covers the Olympics and Paralympics (the Euros mostly fell in the previous quarter). The big question was what impact – if any – they might have on radio.
We know that there were record TV audiences for the home games. BBC1 and BBC2 were up nearly 26% on the previous August, while overall viewing was up across July and August. If there’s one certainty with radio listening – it’s that if TV viewing goes up, radio tends to get hit.
Radio listening did fall overall during the quarter. Although 89% of the population (47m) listened to the radio, the time they spent listening did fall 1.0% on the quarter. The average adult who listens to the radio listens for 21.9 hours a week or 3.1 hours a day.
The share of listening between the BBC and commercial was essentially unchanged on the quarter, with the BBC having 54.2% and commercial radio having 43.3% (the remainder being made up of non-RAJAR measured services such as community radio as well some internet radio). In London, last quarter’s “aberration” that saw the BBC overtake commercial radio in London, was reversed, and we were back to commercial radio representing 51.3% of listening while the BBC has 45.3%.
You can look elsewhere to get the full list of stories, but notable things that I’ve seen in this RAJAR include:

  • A disappointing quarter for Radio 2, with a 3.8% fall in reach and a 4.0% fall in hours. Since Radio 2 is the biggest station in the country, lots of other stations will be pleased about this!
  • A good result for Radio 3 in their Proms quarter. A 5.5% increase in reach and a whopping 18.8% increase in hours
  • A decent result for Talksport – perhaps reflecting some of the “summer of sport”. Up 3.4% in reach and 5.3% in hours
  • Not such a great result for Absolute Radio’s Network of services – and my employer. With a 7.3% fall in reach and 23.7% fall in hours. Year on year, the reach is up however. And I think it’d be fair to mention here, that Q2 2012 was the group’s highest ever figures. But with London in particular being hit, this remains a disappointment.
  • Excellent results from 6 Music. The no-longer-threatened station is leading the BBC’s digital charge. It now has 1.6m listeners – an all time high – and 13.7m listening hours – another all time high.
  • And also excellent results for Radio 4 Extra, which also saw record high reach and hours.
  • Digital listening actually fell marginally this quarter – 31.3% from 31.5%. But in case any gloom and doom merchants latch onto – and they will – the overall trend is still very much up. In fact it was BBC digital listening that fell slightly this quarter. Commercial radio listening rose.
  • In Chris Moyles’ final quarter, his listening actually fell a bit, down 2.8% on the previous quarter to 6.7m listeners a week.
  • And Chris Evans on Radio 2 also fell a bit, by 4.5% on the previous quarter to 8.5m listeners.
  • Dave and Lisa remain number one at breakfast in London (in commercial terms of course, since Radio 4’s Today programme is the actual number one).
  • But elsewhere in London there are some significant double digit changes. We seem to be seeing more of these. In reach terms, Kiss is up 12.2%, Magic is up 11.4% and Smooth is up 11.9%, while Xfm is down 10.8% and BBC London is down 17.4%. But it’s in hours that there are real jumps. Capital, Gold and Kiss all see 20%+ increases in hours, while Magic is up a massive 50.1% and Smooth has over doubled its hours increasing 106%! On the other hand Absolute Radio London’s hours have fallen 55%, Xfm’s 17%, Heart 14% and Choice 10%. Indeed, of the major London stations, the only one that didn’t see a double digit change in listening was BBC London which fell 5.0% in hours on the quarter. It really does look as though we’re going to continue to experience “roller-coaster” figures in the capital.
  • Magic has regained the number one position in London in terms of reach, and thanks to that massive increase in hours, it’s also number one on that measure. Furthermore, Bauer’s sister station, Kiss, is number 2 in London as measured in hours.
  • In terms of groups, Bauer is up a little on the quarter in terms of hours, but down 4.3% on the year. Global has fallen a little on the quarter but is down 7.8% on the year. Real and Smooth Ltd is up nearly 10% on the quarter, and 2.5% on the year. Otherwise, most commercial groups have seen dips.

So here’s that digital listening laid out since the measure began to be measured.

I think what’s fair to say is that although digital listening has flatlined a little this quarter, the growth is continuing in the longer term, and that’s certainly true year on year.
Within digital listening, there was a big boost for the internet last time around. Again, that’s fallen back a little this time around. Given the continued growth of smartphones, improvements in broadband, and growth of internet capable devices like tablets, it would be a rash man who didn’t honestly believe that this is likely to continue. Again, the growth is marked over the longer term.

And it’s been a while since I last looked here at digital listening by station, so here’s the latest update:

It shows that while digital listening to Radio 1 overall is quite low, it has one of the highest shares of online listening. On the other hand Five Live is the most digital of the BBC’s main networks. It’ll be worth keeping tabs on the internet portion of this chart in coming RAJAR surveys now that the BBC is rolling out its own mobile apps. I suspect that amongst younger listeners in particular, these will prove popular.
Recently, Ipsos MediaCT hosted an event looking at radio research in particular. One of the really interesting stats highlighted at the event, was the amount of a station’s overall listening that listeners to the breakfast show represent. It’s a lot.
Look at the chart below. What it says is that 72% of all Absolute Radio’s listening hours come from people who listen to the breakfast show. In other words, only 28% of the station’s listening hours come from people who don’t hear Christian.
And if you look at some of the other big BBC breakfast shows, like Chris Moyles, Chris Evans and even the Today Programme, they all account for even more station listening. A big breakfast show really is important. OK – we all knew that anyway.
But then look at Capital. They’re a Dave and Lisa aren’t quite as important to the overall station performance as some of the others. Perhaps that’s because Capital’s more about the music proposition that the personalities? That’s clearly the case for London’s new number one station. Whisper it if you know Neil Fox, but clearly Magic’s hours come more from people who don’t listen to breakfast than those who do. In other words, the station is clearly built around it’s music rather than presenters.

Anyway, something a bit different.
Finally, of course I couldn’t fail to update my regular RAJAR interactive chart.

But click here to view it properly.
And be sure to read the notes underneath the full sized chart. They highlight the strengths and weaknesses of it, and explain in a little more detail how to use it.
Full RAJAR results are available on their website, and try their app on your mobile device.
Absolute Radio’s press release can be found here.
MediaUK will have quickly updated data with lots of charts, and James Cridland has some thoughts.
Radio Today will have lots of the key RAJAR stories.
Matt Deegan’s take including a worthwhile analysis of 6 Music v Xfm.
Paul Easton has his regular analysis.
Media Guardian has a couple of RAJAR stories from John Plunkett.
Source: RAJAR/Ipsos-MORI/RSMB, period ending 16 September 2012, Adults 15+.
Disclaimer: These are my own views, although they’re based on work I’ve done for Absolute Radio, and through whom I get access to the data. I also sit on the RAJAR Technical Management Group representing commercial radio. Just so you know.

Advertising Sometimes Eats Itself

Watching the football this evening, some of the advertising on the pitchside hoarding really made me wonder what on earth the advertising industry is sometimes up to.
Let’s be clear. I essentially work in the advertising industry.
I work at a commercial radio station, and it’s through advertising – in various forms – that I get paid. So I have nothing against advertising. Indeed I would point out to anyone who listens, that radio is an especially cost efficient and effective means of reaching an audience.
But sometimes I despair of the industry. Here are a few examples of what I mean:
1. Advertising Your Advertisement
Last Friday’s London Evening Standard featured extensive advertisements for not one one, but two different TV ads that were going to be on air that weekend. One advertiser had bought a pricey four page wraparound cover asking readers to watch the ad breaks in the middle of X Factor – ITV’s most popular, and therefore most expensive, show. It was a “media first” that featured some kind of viewer choice. There were multiple ads across the various breaks of the show, and viewers got to decide what happened. All in all, a big and expensive media spend. More ads followed in Saturday’s papers.
I’ve got to ask this question: does anyone outside of the advertising industry really find that interesting? I know the campaign got extensive coverage in the trade press, but do viewers really think, “Ooh. I must make sure I watch the smart new advertising campaign breaking tomorrow evening”?
On the TV pages of the same issue of the Standard, another advertiser was promoting the first play of their TV ad too.
Look, I’m sure you’re very proud of your new TV ad campaign, and that it’s much more relevant than anything that’s gone before it. And you’re somehow getting viewer “engagement” by doing these clever things. But really?
Has anyone – outside the industry – actually tuned in especially for a new ad since the days of the Gold Blend couple?
I’m not saying that people aren’t interested in new TV ads. For example, what Nike does at the next World Cup is already intriguing me two years out. But let’s be realistic.
I’ve no doubt both campaigns will win lots of awards.
2. Paying For Your Advert Twice
You see this more and more on outdoor adverts – including the electronic hoardings at football. Instead of including a website where you can learn more, viewers are instead encourage to “Search _____”.
The advertiser has perhaps run a campaign in the past where they were a little disappointed with the number of people who visited the website. Perhaps it was the complicated URL they couldn’t remember? Yes. That must be it. It certainly wasn’t because viewers had no compelling reason to visit any website.
Look, if the best you can do for a website is put “www.myglobalcompany.com/uk/obscure_brand_name” then I perfectly understand why you’ve gone down the “Search _____” route. But perhaps you ought to rethink your web strategy.
So you end up paying once for the outdoor advertising. And then again to Google for the clickthroughs for the search phrase you’ve paid for. Oh, and a competitor could also buy the same phrase if they wanted. Your pockets might be deeper, but they may end up on the users’ screen too. You’ve now paid for two ads to reach your respondent. And this was someone who was “engaged” enough to want to come to the website anyway!
3. Giving Someone Else Your Real Estate
And that someone else is Facebook. Nobody’s visiting your corporate site. You’ve bought .com, .co.uk, .eu, .biz and so on, but all to naught. Aha. That’s because everyone’s hanging out on Facebook. You should put your brand on Facebook.
In itself, I have no problem with that. That’s incredibly sensible. I should say that you’re going to have an extraordinary uphill battle to get me to “Like” your washing powder brand on Facebook, but I realise others are more promiscuous with their “Liking” and that’s all wonderful and helps fulfill the “social media” aspects of your campaign that your agency has been telling you are really important. Because, yes, you really are as vital to my life as my best friends (and some people I once worked with).
Having a social media strategy is one thing. But why are you promoting Facebook ahead of your own brand’s website? Is your website so poor that you’re embarrassed to send people there? Certainly have links to your Facebook, Twitter, and, ooh, Pinterest pages on your own website. But don’t actually use Facebook.com/mybrandnamehere and print it on your packaging and advertising. You’re just making Facebook more powerful which means it’s going to become ever more expensive for you to talk to your own customers on somebody else’s website.
In any case, do you honestly think anyone’s going to visit your brand’s Facebook page unless you’re giving something away, running a competition of some sort, or doing something very cool (which probably involves harvesting lots of user data).
Utterly bizarre.
I’m sure lots of advertising folk will have lots of reasons why these are brilliant ideas that I don’t really understand. Perhaps the artist in you thinks that your three minute epic shot at great expense by an Oscar winning director deserves everyone making it appointment viewing, that your company brand-name is quite tricky to spell so it’s easier to get everyone to “search frying pans” or that your smoothie brand truly is so lovely that everybody really does want to be your friend on Facebook. But if that’s the case, you’re probably a bit delusional.