By Gary Knight

Winnie the Pooh goes to Cannes

Good Morning, Lovely People.It was just over 92 years ago that A. A. Milne wrote the first of his, now famous books, about a bear and his beloved friends. In 2016 a survey revealed that 25% of the British public believed that they gained more insights into life from the Winnie the Pooh tales than from any of the great philosophers of our age (including Aristotle and Confucius).

As well as having read all the main books, I have also enjoyed the ‘Tao of Pooh’, which explains Chinese Taoism in a very eloquent and brilliant fashion. So I began to wonder what Pooh and his followers would have thought about the great ‘Festival of Creativity’ that has been taking place in Cannes this week? So, here goes, the imagining begins…
Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Roo and Eeyore set off for a bit of an explore.
” Oh goody,”said Piglet, ” Hundred Acre wood here we come!”” Not today Piglet,”replied Pooh, ” we are going further afield, to Cannes”.

” Cannes, Cannes, Cannes,” interjected a very bouncy Tigger, “where on earth is that? “
” Well, it’s not here and not quite there,” added Pooh.” Ahhh”, said Roo, ” I had a feeling that might be the case.”
So they set off to the glamourous South of France, thankfully a predominantly uneventful journey aside from Eeyore having to be put in the hull as the Easyjet staff wouldn’t allow him to sit in the overhead locker (despite buying Speedy boarding).Once they had settled in to their rented wooden home in the forest just outside Cannes, then Pooh’s thoughts turned to lunch (as they often do)
” Flippin’ fiddlesticks “, said a startled Tigger, ” have you seen the prices in this place? “
As the friends squinted at the menu outside the Majestic Hotel it became rapidly clear that this would be an expensive trip.
” 9 euros for a can of coke and 60 euros for a jar of honey!”exclaimed Roo.
” Well, there are recessions in the normal world and then there are recessions in the advertising world”, commented Pooh.
” I hear the Festival organisers take a cut of every hotel, restaurant and bar bill during this week,” stated Eeyore.
“Mmmm, a very large slice of Cottlestone Pie indeed,” added Pooh.
Later that day the friends were wandering around the Palais when Tigger went into a state of hypertension.
” Lions, Lions, Lions, Lions everyone!”screamed Tigger.
” Fear not Tigger “, said Pooh, ” those are not real Lions, they are Cannes Lions. They don’t growl, snarl or bite. They are awards that the Ad business hands out to itself to recognise great creativity.”
Thankfully Tigger’s heart rate returned to normal.
” They give each other awards?” enquired a puzzled Piglet.
” Yes, indeed Piglet, that’s what this whole gig is about,” Pooh stated.
” But, that’s a big egotistical, isn’t it?,” continued Piglet.
” My views exactly,” said Pooh. ” I love great creativity. It touches people’s hearts, stirs up their emotions, can change a thousand habits and build wondrous new things. Being creative should be enoughin itself. You don’t need an award to remind you of your own unique contribution”.
” They should learn from the Bees”, added Roo, ” going quietly about their job, collecting the pollen, building the hive, looking after the Queen and making absolutely scrumptious honey! Bringing magic to this world in their own particular way. You will not see any Bees celebrating their creativity at a festival and giving themselves awards.”
” Succinctly put,” said Pooh.
” Do they give each other Heffelumps and Jagular awards as well?” enquired Tigger 
” Not yet”, said Pooh, ” not yet.”
” So, if this is a Festival of Creativity, then why are there so many non creative folk here?” asked Eeyore.
” Well,” answered Pooh, ” all the media people, all the tech people and all the umpteen other people really consider themselves to be creative even if they are not. They love the vibe, to use an old advertising term.”
” They also seem to love playing games,” commented Tigger.
” Games? ” said Piglet 
“Yes, like ‘ my boat is bigger than yours’, ‘my Nikki Beach Club bill is larger than yours, ‘ We have got Ed Sheeeeraaaan playing at our gig, who have you got?”
” So there are lots of hangers on here then?,” continued Eeyore.
” Thousands of jars of honey full of them,” replied Pooh.
” What are Facebook, Google, Twitter?,” asked Eeyore ” They must be very creative as they all seem to have a beach each.”
” You really don’t want to know Eeyore,”, answered Pooh ” I wouldn’t exactly describe them as creative,”.
” What do they all talk about then, these hangers on?,” asked Tigger.
” Oh, this and that,” replied Pooh.
” Mmmm that must take ages to do that,” said Tigger.
” It does,” Pooh responded ” sometimes even an eternity.”
” So, is Creativity important Pooh? ,” asked Roo.
” Massively”, answered Pooh. ” Even in a lightning speed high tech ecosystem, then Creativity will still be the biggest differentiator, in fact it might be even more important than it has ever been. Creativity touches our souls and feeds our imagination.”
” Wow, if that’s the case it must be super special,” added Piglet.
” It is,” said Pooh. ” Creativity and amazing storytelling are part of our inherent DNA. They both sit on the same branch on the same tree.” 
” Then maybe,” said Piglet, ” the creative people don’t need to worry about festivals and awards, they just need to continue conjuring up their magic for the good of us all.”
” Perfectly outlined Piglet,” replied Pooh.
” In fact Creativity is like love,” added Piglet, ” you need not describe it, or even talk about it, you just need to feel it. “
” Why are we here then? ” asked Tigger
” Well,” continued Pooh, ” someone very important told me that if you weren’t at Cannes, then you were a Nobody,” said Pooh.
” Ah, I see,” continued Tigger, ” so if you are not here then you could be an Anybody.”
” Are we a Nobody or an Anybody? ,” asked Roo.
” Oh, we are much more than either of those,” replied Pooh. ” We are friends.”
” We will be friends forever? ,” said Piglet.
” Oh, I should imagine we will be friends for much longer than that”, replied Pooh.
” Is it time to go home now Pooh? ,” asked Eeyore.
” Yes ,” answered Pooh, ” I am getting hungry and besides I will soon have run out of money. I don’t have an expense account like the Nobodies or the Anybodies. ,” 
With that the friends set off for the long journey back to Hundred Acre wood.

As they boarded the Easyjet flight home one could distinctly hear Pooh singing his favourite song:

Cottlestone, Cottlestone, Cottlestone pie

  A fly can’t bird, but a bird can fly.

  Ask me a riddle and I reply:

  Cottlestone, Cottlestone, Cottlestone pie.

 

 Cottlestone, Cottlestone, Cottlestone pie

 A fish can’t whistle and neither can I.

 Ask me a riddle and I reply:

Cottlestone, Cottlestone, Cottlestone pie.



Cottlestone, cottlestone, cottlestone pie.

I came to Cannes but I can’t fathom out why.

Ask me a riddle and I reply:

Cottlestone, Cottlestone, Cottlestone pie.


Namaste

Gary x

By Gary Knight

Life Lessons from the Seven Kingdoms

So the big event is almost upon us. The days of despair, deceit, treachery, treason, false alliances, grand gestures and downright lies are drawing to a close. A new enemy has arisen, but can we forget our differences, build new bridges and gather our forces to save the Kingdom from an eternity of dark times? No, it’s not the final Brexit plea but rather a more wondrous thing – the last series of ‘Game of Thrones’ fast approaches.Although one could be forgiven for confusing the two items (and particularly which one contains the greater number of actors?).The White walkers are on their march to Westeros, intent on destroying all in their path and claiming the much-fabled Iron Throne. No, this is not another blog on the power of emotional storytelling (although there is plenty of that in both places) but a moreover reflective tale of what we can learn, anchored here in the 21st century, from such dramatic journeys. You do not have to be a fantasy novel fan to appreciate the magnetic pull of these epic tales, as their origins are all deeply embedded in our DNA. Whether George R. R. Martin drew upon inspiration and historical source information from the War of the Roses, the Norman Conquest or even the Roman/Greek/Persian empire gigs, the simple fact is that these grandiose voyages relay the story of all of us. Our aspirations, frustrations, desperations and imaginations are all played out in this fictional world, with only a few dragons thrown in to disguise the reality of our own backyard. It is no wonder that my youth, and those of my children, have found sanctuary amongst the pages of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Like the song of the Sirens they entice us away from the safe shores and into deeper, dangerous waters with the promise that our hearts will finally be satisfied. Sometimes we escape into these sagas to whisk us away from the mundanity of modern life (and for some to escape the horrors of it) and for a brief instance to be free to dream of the life we wished we had. None of these fabulous books/films/tv series offers us a comfortable ride into the potential state of nirvana. Just like reality they are full of villains, and heroes. After all there is a balance at play, a permanent dance between the Yin and the Yang, the Light and the Dark. We may find predominantly ‘happy endings’ contained within their pages, but these stories leave us with a very strong hint that the good guys will still be under threat from the bad guys.The Elves abandon Middle Earth, even though Sauron has been defeated. They have killed the White Witch in Narnia yet the threat of a new, eternal winter remains. Wizards and witches will continue to betray each other and the peace between Muggles and the Magical world is fragile in the shadow of Hogwarts. None of this should surprise us, as Winning is only a temporary state, and there will always be new battles to fight. When we are born we have the amazing opportunity to make the most of the Quest we are on, a Quest whose ultimate end game we all share. After all Death is our final destination, at least in ‘this place’. No wonder that so many great minds (and a few religions) have advised us to enjoy this journey, as brief as it is. Not to take things too seriously, not to cause unnecessary suffering and to try to live a ‘meaningful life’ as far as we can. Respecting other people, other species and our planet are increasingly a main narrative in this ‘meaningful vision’. I am not foolish enough to attempt to unveil all my views on why G.O.T mirrors but also teaches us vital life lessons in this blog. Rather, I will focus on the world of work, one which Jon Snow may have referred to as the ‘Eighth Kingdom’, the most feared and least understood of all the lands.So let’s open our minds and hearts, feed our dire wolves and head off for some old-fashioned education.
> Lesson 1: The gravitational pull to occupy the highest seat in the Kingdom often creates an insatiable thirst. People will do literally anything to get this prize. Want to be the next CEO/Director/Manager? How far are you prepared to go? In our fictional world our characters often risk everything, abandon all previous principles and ditch close aides around them. Sound familiar? Exactly.
> Lesson 2: Working in alliance with your enemies ( competitors) is only a temporary state of play. Often when bigger, badder, better beasts appear on the horizon then you club together. Even if you defeat this new foe, then the chances of a new eternal partnership are limited. In our hearts we are never, ever going to like them very much (or trust them)
> Lesson 3:  In Westeros the word ‘No’ is a powerful concept (and not a frightening one). The word ‘maybe’ is , rightly regarded as useless and in essence is a ‘sin’. Personally I got fed up during my corporate career when my Lords & Masters proclaimed ” never, ever say ‘no’ to a client or an idea’. What utter claptrap! Positive thoughts, ideas and actions are generated when you get rid of the false ’yes’s’, clear out the infinite number of maybe’s and get on with the stuff you can really do to the best of your abilities. Unless you make room in your life for all the fab things you want to do, then you will never find a true harmony. Draw out the dagger of ‘no’ without fear.
> Lesson 4: As another great fictional character stated, ‘ Failure, the greatest teacher is’. All our main players fail in G.O.T, often frequently, but the ones who learn vital lessons from their mistakes are destined to become the true heros of the piece. Failure begins with the permission to enact a task which takes us back to the art of delegation. So many Leaders find failure an unacceptable art within their teams yet they refuse to allow them access to the wider decision-making activities. There is no point spending a fortune on training if you do not operate this first base principle.
> Lesson 5: All the family groups in the 7 Kingdoms are massively dysfunctional (ok, I know that makes for an interesting story but it reflects real life). All teams in the workplace are dysfunctional to a similar degree. Do not fear this because it does not mean that some of these families are not highly successful. They often manage to use this dysfunctionality as an advantage. Do not stress about this, find the best way through the maze and learn to accept this trait as part of the natural order of things.Watch your enemy’s attempt to solve this riddle and seek perfection while you steal their lands and chattels. 
>  Lesson 6: A crisis is a crisis in our mythical world. They do not panic, stress, bully their staff, lose all moral judgement or scream in agony over trivial matters. In the work environment I have witnessed unbelievable behaviours over the minutest of issues. Missed responding to that half-formed brief?  Missed a small clause on a rights contract?  You may have well unleashed the Dragons and asked them to breathe deadly fire down upon all your clients. For goodness’ sake, focus your efforts on the big tasks, handle the small hiccups as they should be treated, i.e. minor bumps along the path.More angst and mental health issues are caused in this area than most of the others combined.  
> Lesson 7: Don’t forget the quieter, good guys and girls working away in the background. Often they do their jobs to the best of their abilities, cause no disruption and treat everyone with a massive amount of respect. All great teams need people like these. Don’t forget them, acknowledge them and smile in their direction. Sam and Hodor are 2 of the most liked characters in G.O.T
> Lesson 8:

 Make the most of your lot (and don’t whine on about what a hard time you are having). Tyrion Lannister may be a dwarf, may have a family who loathes him, may succumb to bouts of heavy drinking and womanising but he definitely lives a full life. He is bright, sharp, sees the bigger picture and has a genuine concern for most of his fellow beings. By no means perfect, he makes several boo-boos but has the resilience to bounce back. He may well be the ultimate hero in the story. You can learn a lot from him.
> Lesson 9: Great Empires rise and fall. Nothing lasts forever.  Dreamed of a job for life? Banking, insurance, retail, A.I? Remember to enjoy the ride, always learn new tricks and be prepared to step across the great divide to that ‘next land’ before the days catch up with you.
> Final lesson: We are only playing a ‘game’ after all. So don‘t sacrifice yourself (and those surrounding you) as though the ‘game’ is all that matters in your life. Work often attaches a ‘hyper serious’ label to itself, don’t believe it. Work, of course, is a large part of most of our lives but always keep a firm perspective on its role in your brief time on our planet. Remember that, just like the Great Houses in G.O.T, most Companies are only interested in their own survival and wealth. They do not love you and when the time arises, they will abandon you and cast you adrift into the wilderness. Keep this in mind and you will be fine.

Some final words of reflection from George R. R. Martin, ” Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”
The new series of G.O.T is on Sky in mid-April, so if you are a big fan of the series there are exciting days ahead.
Namaste x 

By Gary Knight

Return to the Court of the Sun Queen

Greetings good people of these fair Isles. I hope the days have treated you all well. In this month’s blog I am returning to the Court of our Sun Queen, Dame Carolyn McCall, to see how her plan for ITV has been developing. She has been in the CEO role at ITV for just over a year now and most of you would have seen the headlines around their 2018 full year results. But let’s dig a little deeper into the sand and unveil any hidden treasures in her chamber. Most of the journalists focused on the proposed UK launch of Britbox, and I will delve into this ‘sleeping leopard’ later, however one must not ignore the nitty-gritty elements that underpin the business.

 Carolyn made much of the re-balancing of the business between the Broadcasting side of life and the Studios division. From a gross revenue perspective this is absolutely the case, with Studios now contributing £1.67 billion of total external revenues of £3.21 billion. Thus, Studios is delivering over half of the revenues. However, when we examine profits, we find that Studios delivers only £255 mill of EBITA. The Broadcast area is still responsible for 68.5% of total profits. This is not a surprising position as the margins on the two units are very different, with Broadcasting delivering a 25% margin and Studios a 15% margin. As I have stated before these are very impressive results and most other businesses would die to get anywhere near these margins (just ask the Grocers or Car Manufacturers). That being said, the fact remains that Broadcasting and thus advertising revenues will remain the primary component in driving ITV’s bottom line performance for the foreseeable future. The push to grow Studios portfolio is vital in an ever content hungry ecosystem but the likelihood is that production margins will decline and will struggle to maintain the impressive current state. Why? It is simply the realities of the market ,unless you have major, global killer content and such a stable at scale. Gazing at the ever-important advertising market then we note that ITV grew at 1% in 2018, whilst being warned that Brexit et al. could see a 3>4% decline in the first half of 2019. Looking at the remaining months of 2019 could see a continuation of this trend, particularly if Brexit leads to ever low confidence amongst UK clients. The real worrying position is revealed when one examines the advertiser category breakdown Dame Carolyn highlighted:
> Retail: -8% yoy, Food:  -7% yoy,  Cars:-3% yoy, Cosmetics: -4% yoy
Now remember that these are 2018 figures and things are going from bad to worse for brands in these categories, so the high probability is that these sectors figures will show an even greater downturn this year. The problems in these category areas are even more worrying for ITV as they represent a major chunk of ITV’s total advertising cake and as mass consumer brands, they have historically been strong supporters of ITV. So, although she made a song and dance in relation to digital led company’s revenues with ITV increasing by 10% yoy, this sector is tiny compared to the big guns. In my humble opinion advertising revenues will come under increased pressure but ITV will still remain highly profitability on this side of the business as their £1.1 billion programme budget is still delivering good audiences (+3% in 2018) and good 16>34 audiences (although massively dependent upon Love Island’s future health).
Turning our attentions to Direct to Consumer revenues, now circa £81 mill, and areas such as Data/Addressable advertising then I really feel this is all too little, too late to have any real future facing impact. It really is just window dressing. To be fair to our Sun Queen this is hardly her fault as previous management just refused to spend any cash supporting this place whilst the rest of the market rushed ahead. Even with Facebook’s current trials and tribulations, their advanced advertising offering with data linkage is light years ahead of ITV. She may be the Queen of Brand building but in the data sector her ship has sadly left these shores and I do not see it finding strong currents or favourable winds that will bring her to new lands. ITV, in theory, has over 40 million customers and she could have been a data rich empire but, alas, that battle was never fought.
Another area of concern is ITV’s marketing budget. Although £10 million has been pumped into a new brand image, ad campaign and a quest to find 15 million elusive light viewers, then this represents a very paltry amount given the sheer scale and size of her competitors in the Premium Content market. Traditionally ITV used the power of her own on-screen promotional airtime to launch her shows, in theory a £300 mill war chest. With viewers bombarded with so much choice ,then this strategy is nowhere near enough to win victories. Finding brilliant new creative formats is hard enough but even when you have them in your hands then the even more challenging task awaits, i.e. how to let your customers know the show is there. From my viewpoint this is a vital call. Given ITV is primarily an ad funded business, then it is still odd that she is not a big advertiser in her own right? Previous management had always been highly reticent in spending any cash in this zone, mainly to protect bottom-line profits. Although improving upon the previous regime’s efforts, I am still somewhat disappointed in our Sun Queen’s efforts to date in this area. Surely this needs to change in the near future? 


Fortunes within the Studios division looks healthy from the bird’s-eye view, with Love Island being sold into ever more markets and shows such as I am Celebrity NGMOOH  producing massive ratings. ROW revenues at £516 million are up by 32% yoy, but worryingly US revenues (still the biggest programme market on Earth) are down 21% at £245million (which makes ITV a miniscule player there).My belief is that EBITA margins of 15% will come under increasing pressure as Broadcasters/ Platform owners have to pay ever spiralling prices for primary rights and will seek to reduce tariffs on all other product. First run series for the bulk of shows make little money on their first outing, many runs at a deficit. The hope is that you can go to a second series to unlock format/finished tape sales and then on to real financial success. However, in this abundant content market, finding hits is getting rarer and rarer. With Broadcasters increasingly reluctant to fully fund shows, then the pressure is really ramping up and is even effecting areas such as ‘development pots’.  You will need to invest ever-increasing amounts in R&D activities to uncover that elusive ‘hit’, which will decrease margins. On the plus side this is definitely a golden age for Producers with a seemingly insatiable demand for content as every device opens up for business, but the fact remains that making a decent profit from all of this is extremely tough.


Finally, we turn to Britbox, a topic on which every journo cast their eyes. Consensus appears to be along the lines of ‘great idea, but way too late’. I was part of the original Project Kangaroo gang (some 9 years ago) in which ITV, BBC and Channel 4 would launch a ‘Best of British’ VOD platform. The regulator, Ofcom, ditched this on restrictive competition grounds. What a ludicrous decision at the time! The result was the Americans wandered into our market, totally unregulated, and stole the ground from under our own noses. Thanks to Ofcom and DCMS the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime came to dominate the market. Now, almost a decade later, our British hopes lie in the new venture, but a bridge too far I believe. People are prepared to sign up to more than one SVOD service (many customers have a dual Netflix, Amazon position). But how many more do they need or want? What USP is Britbox going to bring to them? Archive box sets of yesteryear? The odd new commission? An extension of the window in which you can watch any series you have missed?  With the iPlayer, the ITV Hub and All4 already providing plenty of catch-up fodder, pre-Broadcast opportunities and some original content, then I believe the average Brit is already well served. Even if the venture does reasonably well, then it will not be revolutionary in terms of ITV’s bottom-line profits.
So where does this leave our Sun Queen and her future vision? As I have stated before, I am a big fan of Dame Carolyn; she is a robust and dynamic CEO, but I still believe she is playing a cautious rather than a bold game. ITV will remain a nice and profitable UK business for several years to come. The EBITA margins may well come down a little as the years totter on, but there are no signs of collapse, even if the ad market weakens and ITV’s share within this continues to decline. ITV is on firm financial footings. Great profit to cash position of 88%, a minimal pension deficit and still paying a very handsome dividend of 8p to shareholders. This is the lens from which we should view the company. Conversely, we should not view their future as a major global player, as they have neither the scale nor real ambition to reach these dizzy heights. Just consider the current competitive landscape in terms of company stock market values:
> ITV: £5.2 bill
> Netflix: £151 bill
> Comcast: £172 bill
> Disney/Fox: £168 bill
> Amazon: £788 bill


ITV cannot compete against these giants on the international content stage.
ITV will remain a very important element in the UK Broadcast market, with good profit margins and still producing some great product. As for our Sun Queen, I am slightly saddened that she has not got Cleopatra’s thirst to rule even more lands. Perhaps though, unlike her predecessor, Adam Crozier, she will succeed in finding a buyer for ITV that will finally link our favourite Broadcaster into a global network that has the muscle to compete in the toughest arenas.
Namaste x  

By Gary Knight

A culture of Champions, the protocols for high performance

The Culture of Champions and the protocols for success “


The biggest Namaste to you all lovely People & Happy New Year !

I hope you discarded the duvet at 5am on Monday to witness the full, deep glory of the biggest blood red, wolf moon you are ever likely to witness? Truly jaw-dropping stuff!  Full of hyper fuelled energy to drive your ‘chi’ across the meridian channels.

By now you may be suffering from acute Brexititus flu & probably have witnessed most of your wonderful New Year intentions float off into the Siberian winds . But fear not, for even with all the uncertainties in the world & the overriding sense that 2019 could be, well let’s just say ‘a tag tricky’, you still have a series of massive skill sets and treasure chest of opportunities locked away in that incredible body, mind & spirit of yours.

We just need to know how to use them. Thus, in this month’s blog I am going to focus on the Culture of Champions, how they are built, how they continue to thrive (regardless of market conditions) & how the Leaders of these teams have unlocked the secret system to deliver amazing degrees of success. These individuals all possess , what the brilliant Dr Carol Dweck has labelled, a ‘growth mindset’. In essence , a passionate belief system based around continuous learning.

There are some excellent books out there on this subject, most notably Khoi Tu’s fabulous read ‘ Super Teams’ and ( as already mentioned ) Dr Carol Dweck’s ‘Mindset’. I have taken the liberty of drawing inspiration from their nourishing ideas and I have added some of their examples within this blog.

As we sit here at the end of January we have a prime example of a Champions mentality we desperately need , i.e. in the British Government , at a time when the ‘other side’ is displaying traits of a team at the top of its game, i.e. the E.U

So, wherever your political persuasions lie, we have a classic case of miserable failure by our Leaders.

Champions do not just appear on the sporting field, on the movie screen or in the boardroom, they are found all around us in everyday situations. Incredible teachers, nurses, carers, fire crew and normal people who do extraordinary things primarily for the benefit of others. Whilst this blog focuses on the culture of Champions within the business world, the insights contained here equally apply to these truly remarkable individuals.

Champions all live and breathe the following traits :

* they share a clear and compelling common purpose

* they are all ‘well led’

* they pursue a quest for the best and look beyond their own industry to learn from the ‘best in breed’.

* they shape the environment for success

* they build cohesion

* they master conflict

* they adapt or die

If you run that master checklist off against our current negotiation of the Brexit deal, then it might easily drag you down the road that our current politicians are displaying signs of miserable failure rather than a Champion’s growth mindset ?

So, what about some practical examples of how various teams have mastered the protocols for success within the Champions belief system ?

PIXAR faced having to blend a diverse mix of techno whizz kids and highly creative animators in order to rewrite the rulebooks of how to make incredibly profitable animation feature films. They forged a compelling, common purpose by both sharing it and making it personal at the same time. All team members understood the ‘definition of victory’ & they worked in mixed teams to chart the course for this end result. They always reflected on their current reality, took time to pause & re-adjust if required. They kept focused on the task at hand but retained the concept of flexibility in case they needed to take a slight ‘turn’ at certain junctures. They also adopted a key set of rules from language learning, i.e. repeat, remind and reinforce.

EUROPEAN RYDER CUP TEAM 2018 : despite facing 8 of the World’s best golfers and being the weaker team by a country mile on paper, they destroyed the United States team last autumn. Golf is a highly individual sport and rarely played within a team framework, but the European team decided from the outset that they would master any internal conflict and ensure that a united team arrived in Paris and not a group of highly, often egotistical characters. They pursued a ‘quest for the best as a team ‘ . Every player had a mission to fulfil within their own merits, but their overriding focus was on being part of a linked support system for all the other members of their team, they gambled that the Americans would not follow this strategy and would end up being ‘spooked into submission’. Boy did it work ! Their linked belief system became a magnetic forcefield that shone from their chests every time they hit a shot.

THE ROLLING STONES : You may never have thought of them as one of the world’s most enduring and profitable brands across the last 50 years , but they definitely are. Wouldn’t you like to have a share of a brand that can do (yet again) their final ‘last, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever world tour ‘ and gross $450 million ? One of the secrets to their success is massive team cohesion, built heavily on a thick trust layer. This trust was forged through each band member’s belief in the competence of the other members, years of being together ( often for long periods ) and their ability to overcome times of high conflict and crisis. Throughout this they have maintained a passionate belief in what they need to deliver for the audiences. Ronnie Wood sums this up ” When we go on stage we have a common vision and a common understanding. We suffer together, we resist together, and we win together. Just being ‘good enough’ doesn’t count…we want to blow everyone else out of sight.” Having seen a recent Stones gig and watching Jagger on stage for over 3 hours then I tend to agree !

THE BRITISH RED CROSS : sometimes a Champions mindset is required when literally it is a matter of life and death. Organisations such as the British Red Cross often operate in hostile and harrowing conditions and thus they find the need to shape the environment around them critical for such lifesaving tasks. Key learnings are to keep the teams as small as the mission allows (no freeloaders, non-participants), clarify exact individual roles within the team, control the controllable and focus on resources that are fit for purpose. Mike Goodhand, former CEO, described this ethos as ” Good enough is never going to be good enough….when your job is to save lives you can never, ever afford to rest on your laurels.”

Once again, we need to journey back to the fields of Leadership. Most of you who have read my previous blogs will understand my complete despair at the lack of ‘great leaders ‘ amongst us. Thus, given that all Champions are ‘well led’ then what are our critical paths in this respect? Going back to Carol Dweck’s work on ‘Mindsets’, then we can unearth some of the magic ingredients required. On the negative side those Leaders with a ‘fixed mindset’ focus on their own power more than their own team’s well-being. Some of these individuals re-affirm their status by demeaning others and even holding back high performing employees in order to protect their own status ( I know plenty of these!) On the more positive side of the coin the ‘Growth Mindset’ Leaders help their teams to develop and encourage a landscape of continuous learning. They fully understand the difference between ‘Training’, which is often enacted as some kind of guilt factor or a need to hit HR targets and ‘ Development’, which is a lifelong pursuit and integral to the DNA of a Champion team. Such Leaders create a culture of self-examination, open communication and teamwork. They never look to bag all the glory for themselves. Most importantly they allow individuals to be part of the decision-making process whilst still recognising that people can be independent thinkers as well as valued team players.

Their egos never allow them to be static or insular as they permanently look outside their own industry to learn from the ‘best in class’. Take SouthWest Airlines, a low-cost local carrier in the US. Their business model is highly predicated on the ability to service and turn around aircrafts at lightning speeds, whilst still having to maintain the very highest standards of safety measurements. So why not turn to F1 pit teams, who literally have seconds to fit new tyres onto a high-performance engine ? Highly skilled engineers all working in a very small space, every member of the team having a specific task whilst still being part of a ‘network of linked neutrons’. Well, the F1 team very graciously told our friends ” do not learn from us, go to the people we learned from”. Who on earth could have a more high-pressure task than them ? It turns out to be an open-heart surgery team at a hospital in California ! In this team every second is genuinely a matter of life and death. A small team of specialists all working within the confined space of an operating theatre and all focused on ensuring that their patients stays alive. This takes the whole concept of team work and high-performance Champion mindset to a totally new level.

Turning back to our dear PM and the other 600 or so other souls in ‘that place’, then perhaps they will do well to read this blog and adhere to some of the wise words contained within ‘this space’. Perhaps I could leave them with these final words ? I might even persuade one of them to put them in an amendment to the Brexit deal…

  • Stick to an ‘Adapt or Die Philosophy’
  • Don’t be scared to change your own behaviours
  • Be obsessive about improvement
  • Focus on building new team norms
  • Design the future together ( BIG one for the Westminster crowd!)

Finally, I would like to leave you all with these delicious thoughts :

‘ Talent is the ability to hit a target with a very high degree of frequency. Genius is the ability to see targets the others do not know exist ‘.

Hope to see you on a Yoga mat soon. Namaste G x 

By Gary Knight

The Evolved Leader is the most desired of all the species

Greetings lovely people.
I trust your days have been filled with much peace & joy.
I have always been fascinated by the concept of ‘Elite Teams’, how they are built, how they continue to thrive no matter what the competition/market throws at them. The nature of their psychological traits as well as their intellectual & physical bones. There are tons of examples of how we can learn from the ‘best in breed’, often looking beyond our own business areas & studying how others excel:
> Formula 1 tyre change teams who learnt to be amongst those elite forces by examining how Heart Surgeons, & their highly skilled support teams, save lives in time critical situations whilst operating in the most confined space conditions imaginable.
> NASA Rocket engineers who turned to the SAS to understand that it is critical to take ‘as few people on the mission as possible’ to reach the dizzy heights of the Elite zones.
My quest to understand the dynamics of this higher state has stayed with me across the decades & the other week my interest in this subject was fully rekindled.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to Kathleen Saxton’s Lighthouse company event. Her annual ‘Shipping Forecast’ not only allows us a deep insight into how the Media/Advertising/Brand industry is feeling about itself but also provides us with the views of some fascinating & diverse speakers. Present were a rich, hybrid mix of a Neurosurgeon, Poet, MP, Diversity Campaigners, Future Strategists, Amazon & a certain Sir Martin Sorrell.
I was enchanted by many of the speaker’s words as they echoed lots of the issues I have raised in these blogs before, i.e. Short-Term paranoia, lack of robust Leadership, Creativity being the most critical element in future success & the rise of automation.
So, without sparring any blushes to Kathleen, I wanted to focus on that splendid evening & in particular, her eloquent descriptions of the Leadership species currently amongst us: The Exotic, the Extinct & the Evolved.
But first let’s examine how our business felt about itself?

> 54% of respondents would consider moving company
> 39% have thought about leaving the industry
> 25% have a fear of redundancy.

These figures look scary, particularly when you have the paradox of most people stating they ‘quite like their current job/company’.

There is a distinct concern that many people believe they are either on the verge of being Extinct or already have gone the way of the Dodo. With many experts predicting that up to 60% of all industries foresee 30% of all jobs being automated, then it is small wonder that this ‘dark future vision’ is grabbing hold of us.
In the field of Leadership one can already witness how the soon to be Extinct species are barely hanging on to their roles. Refusing to change direction, accept a new order of consumer & ignore the pace of technological development. Sadly, our High Streets bear testament to the abundance of these beasts still amongst us.

Beyond the fields of Extinction, where else can we look for inspiration & salvation?
Kathleen introduced two more species who offer us hope at the Gates of Mordor, the Exotic & the Evolved.
The Exotic are a new breed of talents, often not fitting into the norm of corporate structures, difficult to keep in captivity & often seen as a risk-hire. However, they are increasingly being viewed as an unavoidable investment for businesses dedicated to truly revolutionise, invent & progress. They can offer the antidote to the Triple A Threat of Analytics, Architecture & Artificial Intelligence. They approach business solutions & opportunities from a fourth dimensional perspective. They may not fit into a nice, neat box, but boy do we need them. Forget about trying to train people up into these magical realms, as their gifts are borne rather than bred.
So, if you come across any of these rare people, then I would advise you to hang out with them & hope that some of their mystical life force rubs off on you!
Finally, we have the most desired of all the species, the Evolved Leader. They possess old world integrity & skills but have successfully migrated across into the new lands. Many of these individuals have smelt the technological ‘winds of war’ & decided to act. Often sharpening new skills off of their own backs & sticking close to the young guns who entered the gladiatorial arena when the FAANG crowd came to town. For them the ‘old’ really can learn career prolonging tricks from the ‘new’. They move fluently across the chambers of Tech, Data, Geographical Consumer Shift, the metamorphosis of Retail & the whole manner in which Brands will need to navigate across tomorrow’s oceans. They have no fear of venturing into the unknown nor acting as ‘naive experts’ in fields they, as yet, have sparse knowledge.
So, who are this elite species? Well, as one would expect, they are rare, maybe only 10 > 15% of current Leaders achieve this status, even though (in a recent survey) some 74% claimed they feel they belong to this most exclusive of clubs. They are the most desired of all the species that roam the Business ecosystem & are increasingly sought out, Lara Croft style, but the top Headhunting firms. If you are already a Leader, then I would advise you to join their ranks as soon as you can, or else the threat of extinction looms across those far pavilions. Get off your butt, learn the new skills & accept them as a vital part of your DNA moving forward. Don’t ever forget when Leaders stop learning then the forests of doom will really descend upon us.
As for those wondrous speakers on that immersive evening, then just a few snippets of their own manifestos:

> A.I has its ‘ying & yang side’. For our Neurosurgeon, it has enabled him to build operating equipment that it far more effective in the micro-delicate world of brain surgery. But Amazon warned us that A.I tools are being developed to both track & then tap into our emotional need states. Thus, potentially selling us stuff when we are ‘vulnerable’. Shades of the current gambling addiction debate here.

> The journey to diversity harmony has really only just begun, with those people suffering from disabilities still being discriminated against or even ignored, particularly in the workforce. The rally cry here was that Big Business has a massive role in shaping a fairer future for these people & we cannot just keep laying the blame at Government’s doorsteps.

> Data inevitable had its moment, but our Media guru believed that we are beginning to lose the plot on how to effectively collect & utilise data. There has to be a smarter way.

> Creativity also featured highly (hoorah!) with a viewpoint that, in the world of marketing, it would increasingly be the single biggest differentiator. This was further backed up by Andria Zafirakou, officially the ‘Best Teacher in the World’, who is going to invest all of her £1 million prize into community arts projects in schools, as she passionately believes that the arts are being abandoned by the educational system & that the arts remain crucial to our human well-being.

> Finally, it took a poet to remind us that Love remains the most powerful force in the universe, particularly the love of a mother.

At this juncture I just wanted to add that Kathleen did not ask me/persuade me to write this blog, honestly put I was totally enthralled by the evening. I am sure if you wish to contact her, then she would be more than happy to expand upon her ‘Shipping Forecast’ report.

It’s almost time to get my Yoga mat out & head off to a Jivamukti class, but before I go I just wanted to let you know that a future blog will be dedicated to the subject of Elite Teams, so please look out for this.
Finally, one of the common denominators of all those Elite teams that I studied was this: They are all well led…
Which nicely returns us to the Evolved Leader

Namaste

Gary x

By Gary Knight

Inside the Bloody Chamber

Greetings lovely People, I do hope you are snuggled up under your bed sheets or close by a loved one? As in this month’s blog I explore a world of dark deeds, treachery, greed, abandonment & gruesome sacrifices.

In Angela Carter’s delicious book of gothic short stories, ‘The Bloody Chamber’, we are whisked off to a world where Fairy Tales have few happy endings. Inspired by these devilish tales, I began to draw comparisons to similar lands inhabited by equally dangerous creatures.

So, let our story begin… A long, long time ago a King in a distant land, or it might even have been a Queen, decided that all was not well in the Kingdom & that lots of stuff needed to change. After all food yields were down, the army was getting a bit sloppy, despite rising taxes the Kingdom’s coffers were getting somewhat empty & worrying tales of big scary monsters roaming the outlands were beginning to reach our sovereigns ears. These hideous creatures apparently possessed enormous fangs & so the nickname of FAANGs was soon attached to them. Clearly our beloved Leaders needed some help but instead of turning to their trusted generals or council advisors (after all they were already on the payroll & being handsomely rewarded with many a grot of gold), one instead turned to some external help in order to get some fresh ideas & perhaps to remove the emotional distress of difficult decision making from those already employed within the Kingdom.

Messengers were sent to & forth & soon a sturdy ship was procured in order to bring these new Saviours across the vast oceans (as they all seemed to originate from a distant land called America) to our little Kingdom by the sea. These foreign Lords all came from a province called Restructure, although our Sovereigns soon found out that over wondrous names were attached to this place, such as Strategy Refresh (one’s favourite) & even Corporate Reinvigoration. The Lords themselves came from grand & noble houses, The McFlimsey’s, the Blame’s and even the Braston Consultancy’s. They were some of the richest people in their own lands & when our Rulers were presented with the financial terms required to fix the problems of the Kingdom, well one nearly fell of their throne & let out a small gasp. Still something needed to be done & done fast, so one of them got the gig.

Some weeks later a small army of these restructuring experts camped out inside our Palace. They asked to be addressed by the name of Management Consultants as apparently the words ‘restructuring’ could not be easily translated into everyday common parlance.

A series of decrees were soon nailed to the Town Square trees in every village of the land. These contained the terms under which the MC’s (as they became affectionately known by the common folk) would perform their duties. Every citizen would have to comply with said terms or else the dreaded Dungeon of Doom awaited. Some of the more interesting decrees stated were:

Ye shall be interviewed by the MC & shall explain your exact role in the Kingdom

Ye shall be invited to comment on the roles other people also perform in the Kingdom

Ye may be invited into a room with several other people to argue why ye may keep your role & others may not.

There were many, many more decrees as well, but you get the general gist. One of the ‘common folk’, a Blacksmith was somewhat surprised that his beloved Rulers would pay across good sums of gold to these MC’s in order to be asked ‘what his role was in the Kingdom’, after all everyone knew he was the Blacksmith & everyone also knew what a Blacksmith did. Nevertheless, he complied with the decree & put his worries down to the fact that he must be ignorant & uneducated compared to the wise MCs.

 

Many people began to comment upon how strange these foreign Lords seemed. They barely ate, drunk, appeared never to sleep, worked on weekends & virtually on every festival day. Many of them were extremely young, somewhat aloof & appeared not to have been blessed by Merlin’s Charm spell.

Many, many, many moons passed & finally the great day arrived. Our Sovereigns were presented with an enormous book, expensively engraved & with luscious illustrations. Our blessed Rulers scoured through the contents which contained all the details of the mystical Strategy Refresh. There were lots of suggestions on how to deal with the FAANGs, how & where to buy new armoury, how to explore & indeed ‘invade’ new shores. Finally, our Sovereigns reached the final section of the book, here the look & feel was very different. No longer pages of ornate gold, no emerald encrusted margins, rather a very pitch-black dark feel with the words ‘Restructure Recommendations’ set out in ‘Blood Red ‘ (perhaps even Human blood red?) In these night infested pages contained many a word of dark magic:

  • recommended cost savings
  • removal of management layers
  • removal of job duplication areas
  •  merging of roles

The list went on & on. Our Blessed Rulers were at first somewhat aghast by these suggestions but then one’s heart was overjoyed in reading the final section of the book, Projected Overall Savings. Deep joy, for despite the vast sums of gold that needed to be handed over to the MCs for their work, all this could be paid for & heaps would be left over for the Crown’s treasure chest!

Our King/Queen summoned their council & ordered that The Great Restructure was to be implemented forthwith. The bells of the cathedral rang out in joy as a sign that our Kingdom would be safe, secure, wealthy & a magical place to live in once again. This indeed was a glorious day for all the citizens of this very small Kingdom by the Sea, wasn’t it?

Around the same time that the Cathedral’s bells were ringing out, a Noble Knight riding upon a glorious white horse passed close by the Kingdom’s gates. He had not planned to stop this night, but he was intrigued by the general noise & activity taking place. Our good Knight was a close friend of our Blessed Rulers, so he was welcomed with genuine warmth by the people. As he dismounted his horse, he asked the squire what all the fuss was about.

” The Great Restructure is Upon us Sire “.

A chill raced all along our Noble Knight’s back upon hearing these words, one which was further exacerbated when he saw a group of people dragging chests of gold & jewellery towards a waiting fleet of carts & horses. They wore distinctive ruby red cloaks & upon their hands they bore the horn shaped rings bearing the mark of the Braston Consultants, the ‘Braston Stranglers ‘ as they had become known by many other Kingdoms were their work had been conducted.

Much troubled our good Knight requested an audience with our most blessed Sovereigns.

He bore a ghastly look across his face as the King & Queen told them all their news of the Great Restructure. Sadly, a great many people would have to be kicked out of the Castle’s gates as they were no longer required. Some would have the time to gather a few belongings, but others were to be removed at all haste in a very undignified manner. The King’s own HR Bodyguard had been dispatched to carry out the work. All the people leaving would be comforted by these sweet words:

  • it’s nothing personal
  • you have done nothing wrong
  • everyone is so saddened by the news
  • do not worry, you will be fine in time
  • the King & Queen are extremely worried by the effect this will all have on the morale of those that are staying

Those who were staying would then be put under a period of cultural refresh in order to both celebrate & be trained on how they are to work in the Great Restructure. These people were going to love the Kingdom even more than they did before.

The Knight was invited to read the sacred book produced by the Stranglers. In over 40 years of hardened campaign battles & travels to many of the lands across the known world he had seen it all before. Yes, the cost savings were indeed impressive but were any of the suggestions for the Strategy Refresh really valid? Would they do anything at all to counter the threat of those scary FAANGs? He also realised that this Great Restructure bore a very (very) close resemblance to many other MC documents he had seen in other Great Kingdoms.

Frustrated but resigned to the fact this King & Queen were not for turning, our noble Knight bad his farewells. He bowed in the gracious & courteous manner to our beloved Rulers & asked them just one more question:

” How many of the King & Queen’s most trusted senior advisors would be leaving the Kingdom? ”

” O0h, none of them “, came the reply, ” they have done nothing wrong. It is the ordinary common folk we sadly have to blame. They are the ones that must rightfully bare their burden for our current problems”.

In the days that followed there was much sadness witnessed within the castle walls. Some of the common folk were dragged off & tortured, forced to sign confessions (that the HR Bodyguards called, rather innocently, ‘compromise agreements), others had to sneak back at night to recover some of their belongings, while some were simply never seen again.

The Knight had seen & heard enough & off he set to escape the madness of that place. Before leaving he put his own set of decrees on a tree in the middle of the castle walls, in the vain hope that somebody, someday would read & learn.

  • Do not love your Kingdom because it does not love you.
  • The King’s HR Bodyguards work for the Kingdom, not you. Remember that when the time comes.
  • The only thing that is consistent in any Great Restructure or Strategy Refresh is that lots of good folk will have to leave the Kingdom
  • Most of the senior people who called for & implemented the last Great Restructure will remain, even though they are the ones who didn’t get the current structure right.

As our Good Knight was about to climb upon his trusty stead he was approached by a fair Lady, resplendent in her deep ruby red cloak, beside her an enormous Wolf with deep blue eyes & a rich fur coat of snow, white hair.

” a gold coin for your thoughts, most chivalrous Knight’, she said.

” when will you be back fair Lady? ”

” Oh, in about 3 years I would imagine. Just enough time for this Strategy Refresh to have run its course, then we can deliver the next one. ”

” What about the common folk, their livelihood, their anguish, their despair? ”

” Now don’t you get all emotional with me. They are not my concern. Besides, think about all the fun we are going to have when we replace them with Robots!”

With that she winked, blew a kiss, & placed a handful of golden Jewels in her pocket.

PROLOGUE:

Thousands of years after these events Leaders of Companies are still engaging the MC’s to help them along the GREAT RESTRUCTURING path. ITV are just one of those undertaking such activity now, but surely the Comcast/Sky & Disney/Fox deals will precipitate others. I don’t blame the MC’s themselves, after all they are in the business of making £/$s out of selling their services. I am also fully aware that, in a hyper competitive market, companies need to be ever vigilant. Change after all is a constant dynamic in today’s markets, so the adapt or die label is never more pertinent. My frustration lies in the fact that cost cutting is still rampant when these reviews are conducted, often resulting in real human ‘sacrifices’. Rarely does a ‘STRATEGY REFRESH’ produce a genuine new way of operating, or one that is successful over time. Even more frustrating is that so few senior people join the ‘sacrifice’ club when such changes occur. Now that is odd, isn’t it? The very people who were responsible for their current company structures (& who presumably got it wrong, or at least failed to perform at expected levels) get to keep their jobs, whilst tons of ‘on the ground troops’ lose theirs. It will be interesting to see if my predictions are true when the new ITV, Comcast & Disney structures emerge, although I am almost certain I am right.

So sadly, dear Noble Knight on your gracious white horse, ‘we have learned nothing’.

Meanwhile look out for that Fair Lady in her cloak of ruby red, with the Wolf by her side, as she will be paying you a visit sometime soon.

Sweet Dreams.

Namaste x

 

By Gary Knight

Travellers there are no Roads, Roads are made by Walking

Good Morning Good People

As promised the first of my blogs this month focuses on my own personal journey, from a life in the corporate world to the new horizons of running my own business- Flippin’Eck Ltd. Apologies in advance but it feels more like a short story than a blog, but please stay with me on this.

Now I am fully aware that millions of people have trodden this path before & followed their own dream/passion, so this is not an instruction manual or a ‘How to Succeed Book ‘, but it is a very personal view of the shift from ‘that world’ to ‘this one’. My own father always ran his own company, but I decided to follow the corporate life & thus nearly 40 years of ITV ( in all its various guises ensued ).

Beginnings

A year ago, this week I learned that my ITV career was coming to an end. Yes, I had a hell of an innings but still a shock to the system when that day arrives…

So, what were my first reactions ? Fear, anger, panic , huge disappointment & a gut wrenching ‘bloody hell’ in my stomach ? Probably a mixture of all of those in the first few days/weeks that followed. There was never any feeling of denial though. I was leaving & that was that . Just like a long love affair when one party decides they do not want to be with you anymore then there is never really any way back. There is , of course, a massive sense of ‘loss’ & that can consume you if you do not confront it , preferably head on , in the early days of your news. Some people are shown the door straight away, gardening leave etc. Fortunately , I was allowed good time to say my goodbyes to the people that mattered. Given that I am a ‘high personality type’, always wanting to be busy & enjoying doing heaps of stuff, then I think the first thoughts of my family were , ” Oh God, he is going to drive us nuts at home !”

Thankfully I never gave them that chance as I decided that I definitely didn’t want to pursue a further job as a ‘posh slave’ ( Luke Johnson’s definition of people employed by companies ) & straight away decided that I was going to run my own business.

So, I really converted the huge negative into a massive positive . Some of you may have been thinking that I needed to take some time out & consider the options before diving into the deep waters of start-up. You may be right,  but my own coping mechanism , I guess, & ultimately my ability to move forward quickly led me down this route.

So off I went…no 6 months voyage around the far-flung corners of the globe, no lie on a beach in the South Sea Islands & no hide away in a cave on Bodmin moor. Just straight into ‘ open my own business mode ‘.

So, what happened next ? First the rush of adrenalin as I had to learn all the skills ( & considerable admin ! ) of getting your firm up & running. Website design, logo, name, social media marketing, email lists, professional photographs, company house & the lovely world of VAT returns ( bless them ). I love learning , so this was a brilliant phase for me. Funny enough, even though I have produced tons of business strategy docs, business plans, budget sheets, credential presentations etc in my ITV life, it was all so different when I did it for my own company. Yoga has taught me that we need to be more kind to ourselves, but I was hyper critical of my own initial efforts. I kept going ‘outside the room’ & rebooking at my master plan, then shouting out ‘yuck!’ & re-framing it. I also read heaps of books on the subject, my favourite being ‘How to Run your own business for Bohemians ‘…just brilliant for the creatively minded amongst us.

Then the excitement subsides for a while & your business ‘opens its doors’ ….now it’s real, no turning back, no wimping out…you are in …

That was the dramatic beginning , but what have I learned along the road ?

Firstly, I realised that I was going to be spending a lot of time on my own , even with a high-profile networking plan in action. I had always worked in an environment rich with people & I couldn’t stand the thought of being ‘alone at a desk ‘, or ‘nursing a day long cup of Cappuccino  alongside a computer in any old coffee shop. So off I went into the world of co-working offices , WeWork, Club Workspace etc, although I finally chose TOG ( The Office Group ). I opted for a Co-Working Pass, which means I can work out of any of about 20 buildings dotted around various parts of London. My home base is in Shoreditch ( I know , I know , you are thinking ‘hyper trendy ‘, but I was born in Bethnal Green, so it is home turf for me ( even though when I was a teenager we thought Shoreditch was worse than a sewer ditch ). The great thing about these Co-Working offices id that they are full of entrepreneurs, start-ups & some very talented individuals. They have all given me a sense of energy & massively helped me to ease into these new lands. My only irk is that almost everyone has headphones on, works on their computer all day long & rarely speaks. Strange but true!

Now to excavate further below the surface & examine what I found there :

People: The People I already knew fell into 2 camps : those who stuck by me, have been brilliant as guides, mentors, pick-me-ups & encouragers along the way. Having access to individuals who were already running their own businesses was invaluable. A huge massive ‘thank you’ to all of you, you have been stars and your continued support is a true blessing. Then there were people I knew really well, really well over a number of years who dropped me like an uneven pebble on a beach. Once you were no longer in the ‘corporate’ life, then it appears your usefulness disappears down the drain. I always had a strong sense that some of this would inevitably happen, but I was shocked by the frequency & scale of this. I could understand this if I had been offensive, non-co-operative or even just a megalomaniac ! But that was never my style. I fully understand that this is a two-way street  & you need to reach out as well, but in those first vulnerable months you need as much help as you can get, so it is truly sad when this fails to arrive. My Yoga life has given me a great insight to all of this. In the Hindu religion then Shiva is the God known as ‘ The Destroyer’. Without delving too much into the fine print here, the concept of destruction in this context is all about ‘removing’ all the negative stuff in your life, which in turn creates lots more space for all the positive things. So, my belief system now is that I do not feel anger or a sense of revenge to those people who I feel let me down a lot, I simply ‘remove’ them from my life. This may sound brutal, but it really is not. You can then make enough room in your life to focus on all those amazing positive folk out there who are a constant joy to be amongst.

Then there are the ‘ New People’, some I have met by networking, some by recommendations & some by pure fluke. By & large this group have been a revelation , ever helpful, keen to push work my way & fabulous advisors on subject areas I knew little about. I have been particularly impressed by the attitude of most small companies who seem ever eager to help out other small businesses. It really is a karma-thing, so I now spend many a time recommending other people for jobs . In fact, the other day I heard myself, for the third time in 2 hours saying : ” sorry I can’t really do that for you, but I do know someone who can “.  Not very good for my own bank balance but I am sure the ‘small business universe’ will pay me back.

That’s the good side of the coin, but like all Yang’s then there needs to be a Yin…so Ladies & Gentlemen, Boys & Girls, can I please now introduce you to the ‘Eternal Time-wasters’. What a numerous & annoying bunch they are. Appearing ‘really interested’, chasing you all the time, offering olive branches all over the place but at the end of the day delivering ‘sweet  nothings ‘ at all. They can sometimes be hard to spot, so much so that at times I wish I could take a truffle sniffing pig along to some meetings with them. I am getting better at sensing them but still not fully fluent in the art. To be avoided like the plague !

 The Fabled Black Book

I have a very robust ‘Black Book’, but I have to be very careful how often I open it. You can drive people nuts if you contact them about every ‘new & exciting opportunity ‘ you are working on. So, it needs to be used wisely. The real trick here is to find lots of new contacts & thus create a whole new improved version. You will also find that a lot of people will approach you just to see if they can access your precious contents, normally at zero cost !

Networking 

I have tried & experienced all forms of Networking , from Apps such as Shapr, to Networking Clubs & Industry events. Whilst there are some good new contacts to find out there, by & large they are not brilliant, unless you happen to be in the IT industry. Most of my new contacts have come either by personal recommendations, accidental meetings & by me reaching out to new people. I really do believe Linked In is a great resource ( I actually think it is improving over the years ) & I have found it to be my best ‘networking guide. ”

Have my views on the wider business environment changed ?

Not really, I am still frustrated by many of the issues that I have discussed in my blogs , notably :

Short Termism– still absolutely rife. If anything, it is getting worse & trying to get anyone to make long term decisions is a nigh on impossible. I don’t buy into the constant use of the word ” Brexit” to justify this. We really have got to find a journey that takes us back to long term investments ( which does not mean that we have to whole-heartedly abandon short activations. Far from it, the 2 go hand in hand ).

Leadership– still incredibly poor. The fact that we do not teach it should be a public outcry. Far too many Leaders are only interested in their  own gains & route to glory ( & I have worked for a few of them ). If we are going to thrive as a country in future times, then we really have to urgently address this.

Being Busy–  this seems like an ‘ancient excuse ‘ now, but I still hear it every day. ” Oh, I am so busy…”, ” I can’t believe how busy I am “, ” I am too busy to see you/look at this…” I even remember one very Senior Director who was always busy but always on his mobile phone… My response to this is what are you actually busy on ? In this multitasking world ( even though humans cannot multi-task ) we are losing our ability to focus. When we focus we mainly complete a task/job to 100% levels of our abilities. We get less busy & spend our time in richer, more productive zones. Perhaps before A.I takes full hold of us we will get to grips with this key ‘skill’.

Things I definitely do not miss : Apologies but this is a bit of a list :

Being in a meeting with 10 people, but only 3 of them really need to be there.

Being in lots of meetings, most of the time

Not having to play the ‘ Blame Game’. You know the scenario, something goes wrong & then rather than look to the solution, various individuals simply start ranting off about ‘who is to blame’.

Despite having lots of knowledge, having to get an endless list of people to sign off on stuff.

Leaders who do not understand how to lead.

Leaders who make out they are interested in your future career, but they are not.

The sheer effort people put into office politics.

People refusing to delegate

Sending an email that has to be cc’d to 20 people when you only want to converse with one of them.

Tiny issues that get blown up into a crisis  ( & boy do people enjoy that !)

Not being on a 6am train

Ok, that’s enough for now. How about some Yin stuff ?  All the positive areas I have enjoyed since going solo .

Things I am really enjoying :

Walking everywhere in London. I never take the Tube, occasionally the Bus, but I have literally walked all over London. It is brilliant for your Mind, Body & Spirit!

Creating your own schedule every day. The ultimate flexible working scenario.

Going to a Yoga Class every day.

Getting the 10am train.

Meeting heaps of new people.

Spending lots of time really focusing on work & social projects. What I call ‘proper work solutions ‘.

Learning every day.  One of the joys of life is continuous  learning. If you want to stay relevant & stay interesting, then there are tons of guides &  experts out there who are more than happy to engage. I just spent 8 hours  on the applications of A.R in mainstream marketing, it was fab.

Not having a difference between the ‘ Weekdays’ & the ‘ Weekends’. I no longer experience that end of week TGIF feeling. Every day is a new one for me, sometimes I work on Sundays. Your perspective on time radically changes.

Being a general less stressed & more relaxed person to be with. My Family are somewhat surprised by this one. Massively important to your life.

Being able to spend quality time on other areas of my life. I just completed a week long  Creative Writing Course  ( I will get that Novel published ).

There are more , but I am conscious that I run the risk of moving from Short Story to full blown Novel.

Final thoughts on the Journey so far.…..  It has been tremendously exciting but also extremely challenging. I am not going to kid anyone as it is a tough gig. You need to fully commit, trust yourself & review your business plan regularly. I have built a 5-year plan, & like any plan it is a ‘living, breathing entity’ that needs finessing & adjusting along the path. You will experience more freedom than you ever thought possible, but you are also going to have to be brave. More than anything else you are going to learn a bucket load about yourself, as probably for the first time in your life you will be spending lots of time on your own.  Your energy levels will rise as your thinking time expands & this will sometimes upset your balance. Remain positive & push forward. At the end of the day you truly are the ‘master of your own destiny’. More than anything else, like the Travellers of Old, you need to get off your butt & create those ‘Roads”.

Namaste

Gary x

By Gary Knight

The Sun Queen begins to build her Pyramids

 

Good Evening, good People of these fair Isles & beyond.

I do not normally add a blog so swiftly after my previous posting, but on this occasion the ‘desire’ was too strong. In essence this is really a ‘blog addendum’ to my recent views on Carolyn McCall’s first ‘Vision Statement’ in respect of her strategy for ITV across the next 3 years.  Hopefully many of you will be on a sun kissed beach or , much better, walking along the delightful Jurassic Coast on a staycation! If you have not managed to read that first instalment, then you can do so here.

My second episode follows so swiftly due to the ‘flood gates’ of the Nile having been opened by our Sun Queen so swiftly & frequently in the past week.

As a first up view I am delighted that Dame Carolyn, unlike previous occupants of that role, has followed up with some ‘juicy morsels’ to show that her plan is an active rather than passive one. Most impressive…

Let’s have a gander at the menu items & ingredients that have been unveiled to date .

360-degree Commissioning: long overdue & desperately needed in a modern content ecosystem. Our Sun Queen highlights four specific areas :

  • Closer ties between ITV Studios & the ITV Network
  • The need to improve IP monetisation
  • Performance based metrics attached
  • True Brand Management

At this stage I need to shout a massive ‘hoorah’ to all this !

Carolyn has also admitted that there had been ‘several goes’ at this in the past …but they never got anywhere. Without breaking any trade secrets, I can add to this in that …yes, there were many an attempt to drag ITV into modern Brand management , but the political waters of such attempts were always diverted into muddy sewers. So, let’s knell down , bring our hands close to our chest & bow to the ground to wish her well on this journey. It is essential she succeeds in this task.

I was particularly frustrated at ITV’s lack of desire to put a true monetary value on their main content brands. Where else would a CEO not be able to pick up a piece of paper & see a true valuation , a true P&L, a true state of health on such iconic brands as Coronation Street, Emmerdale, I am a Celebrity NGMOH, The Chase, This Morning, Saturday Night Takeaway & Love Island? Is it not the case that the heath & wealth of such brands gives you a true insight into the health of ITV itself ? I can buy why you might not choose to include such valuations on your company assets sheet etc…. but where would Cadburys be without knowing the value of CDM ? However, not to fully understand such a position , at least from an internal perspective remains a mystery. Brand Management is not a dark art, left alone to the alchemists…let’s wish our Sun Queen well in her battles to bring this discipline firmly embedded into the DNA of the ‘new ITV’

the ITV Hub will finally be treated as a ‘Channel’

This is good news as they have put the Commissioning Controller of Digital Channels, Paul Mortimer , in charge of commissioning content for the Hub, Common-sense has shone through ! Of course, the Hub is a Channel, my 20-year-old son never states  “Oh I  fancy watching some catch up on the ITV Hub “…he simply goes directly to his favourite show , that he wants to watch at any time on any device. 360-degree commissioning would never really work without a decision such as this… it may be very late in the day, but it is a decision. Hat’s off to this.

>The  appointment of a CTO ( Chief Technology Officer ) & CTD ( Chief Data Officer ) is another welcome sign that  ITV is finally trying to build long term robust relationships with its customers. Again, long overdue but at last some action. My contacts in Head Hunting land tell me the job briefs are very robust as well.

£10 million Drama Investment Fund announced 

The tasks for this being :

  • grow creative talent
  • improve pipeline of shows
  • increase monetisation capabilities

I do not want to say much on this area other than it feels too vague & looks like too few £s in a programme genre, that along with Live Sport, will dominate the Content Viewing market for years to come.

Pan Broadcaster SVOD creation

This has woken up the good people of our Ad/Broadcasting fraternity in a frenzy like state, with various commentators but also lots of sage words from people referred to as ‘ ITV ex’s ‘, or ‘BBC Store ex’s’ or ‘ Studio ex’s’…. goodness me, I had no idea that this level of paranoia/secrecy existed around an open market SVOD discussion!  Even poor Nicola Walker, one of the lead actors in ITV’s excellent drama series, ‘Unforgotten’ , would have turned to the camera & uttered the immortal words : ” do you know what, I think I need a drink “. So, what to make of it all ?

  • These wise sages announce that  a successful PSB jv needs to focus on premium content, distribution & pricing. Amazing ! I have always said that any business has only 3 elements at its core-Manufacturing, Distribution & Commercialisation. Fantastic that everyone now gets this.
  • In a cluttered VOD market, you need to invest heavily to win the global game. Yes,  I agree with this …how do you do this ? Jeremy Darroch at Sky offers up some sound advice… as well as having fantastic first run content, exclusive first run rights plus 000s of hours of box sets & archive programming…you also need to be experts in the files of consumer insights, data, churn management, customer service , loyalty programmes & brand development. You can pause here…as I add to you also need to spend a bugger load of money on marketing & maintain a huge SOV within the market.
  • There is going to be a massive punch-up on Rights. With so many varied & complex rights maps to unlock, particularly with third party producers, then the road ahead looks ‘rocky’ rather than less travelled.
  • The way this market is priced , be it SVOD, AVOD or TVOD has become too staid, quasi-institutionalised & needs a more flexible approach. Seems to make sense to me.
  • Can a collaboration of ‘would be partners’ who are also enemies work ? Some clues are tied to trees in comments referencing the France TV, ZDF & RAI agreement on a co-production pool to counter spiralling US dominated SVOD budgets.
  • In Germany Discovery & ProSiebenSat 1  have also announced a paid for programming hub that will also include content from rival Broadcasters

Thus, dear Boys & Girls, all this really points to is that the ‘Game of Thrones’ in respect of SVOD & wider Content Viewing ( plus required monetisation ) is well under way. The Quest to control the ‘Iron Throne’ is the ultimate prize everyone is seeking. So, who will triumph ? Just like George RR Martin’s brilliant re-imagining of the War of the Roses, Lord of the Rings & umpteen other historical Sagas & stories, I fear that the prized seat in Westeros will only ever be held on a ‘temporary basis’…with much money, blood, sweat, tears & other emotions shed along the way. I still worry that our Sun Queen’s ultimate desire is to really put a shed load of her arrows pointed in that direction.

> Challenging the CRR ( Contract Rights Renewal ) not on the agenda

As I stated before I find this really odd ? It’s an antiquated regulation that dates back to 2003, virtually the ‘dark ages’ in terms of modern media. Trading on ‘share of Broadcast budgets ‘ is archaic, means bugger all,  has led to a dark, slimy-grey muddy market , is easily fiddled & sheds little light on ITV’s true competitive performance position. Carolyn defends this stance by adding  ‘she doesn’t want to waste time on this area’ given the regulatory complexities & all the other things she has to do. I think I would always spend time on an area that included £1.8 billion of revenue!  Historically ITV was worried about challenging the CRR rule on the fear this would lead to an open ‘market review’ i.e Agency Deal trading, Station Price etc etc . This fear needs to be overcome & she needs to move on ‘boldly’ in this area. She cites that instead of the CRR review, ITV’s Commercial Team will strive to have more client direct relationships & more creative selling will take place. Again, this appears to me as a rather weak & vague response to what is a much bigger problem.  I was always somewhat shocked that previous CEOs did not have direct relationships with the CEOs of ITV’s top 100 spending Advertisers. With our Sun Queen’s impressive track record , then surely this is an area she will re-address ? It will be interesting to see if Carolyn’s gaze falls directly upon the Commercial Team & she reshapes them into a Sales outfit that can truly ‘win’ tomorrow’s game. My guess is that this will happen, so expect to see big changes in that team across the next couple of months.

As the construction of her pyramids begin then so does the cost cutting with some senior ITV people already ‘leaving’ & I expect more of these announcements in the weeks ahead.

I remain a fan of our Sun Queen , excited by the fact that she is taking action quickly but, as per my comments in my last blog, I am deeply disappointed that she has chosen a ‘stick’ strategy  rather than deciding to ‘twist’.

Episode 3 of our Saga to follow in due course.

Namaste x

 

 

By Gary Knight

Proclamations from the Court of the Sun Queen

So finally the puff of smoke has risen from the ITV Towers ( sadly not my beloved LWT building as that is now being turned into luxury flats, but rather its Holborn HQ , lovingly known as ‘ Hogwarts’ by ITV insiders ) & the ‘Sun Queen’, Dame Carolyn McCall, has unveiled her 3 year strategy for ITV. I use the term ‘Sun Queen”, by the way , with the deepest affections, for who else would have given us the opportunities to visit various European cities via cheap air travel? So it is a deeply warm term.
This is the focus of my blog this month & apologies in advance, but it is rather longer than usual as I wanted to take a very good look under the bonnet.
Firstly I need to state a few provisos :

> Having spent most of my career at ITV & being a deep believer in the Creative Services in this country, then I remain a huge ITV fan.

> Dame Carolyn McCall is a class act & a very good appointment for ITV. She fearlessly saw off Stelios at Easyjet & did a brilliant job for them. To be fair I always thought Carolyn’s job was going to be extremely difficult given the ‘new integrated ecosystem’ that ITV have to operate in. Hence I have awaited with Merlinesque breath to see her first set of magic potions.

Ok, enough of the foreplay, let’s dive in the ‘chapters’ she unveiled at Wednesday’s half years results & her vision for ITV.
Let’s start with the ‘state of the financial engine’ :

> EBITA margin OF 25% onthe broadcasting business & 15% on the Studios side. Who wouldn’t want numbers like that ?

> Profit to cash of 94%
> AD revenues +2% you, with 1% forecast to end of September.

> Online Revenues +48% yoy

> Direct to Consumer Revenues £41 mill.

If we just pause there, then we can safely put one myth to bed….ITV ( & TV ) is not a dying business..rather it is still a great business but it is having to cope with huge consumer & market change…hence the 3 year challenge ahead for our ‘Sun Queen ‘.
Thus on the surface it all looks rosy, a high operating margin, cash rich, well run company.
However, us ex-ITVers & shareholders, still will not sleep easily in this barmy weather without the comfort of how ITV will continue to deliver these impressive results in the years to come.

So what exactly is Carolyn’s plan ?
Well, after having the consultancy firm, Bain & Co, camped out at ITV across the past 7 months, what nuggets of advice have they mined to the surface ? ( I experienced many a consultant in my time at ITV, a few McKinseys, BCG ( The Boston Stranglers as they were ‘charmingly ‘ referred as ) & indeed Bain on previous occasions. )

Essentially a 6 part strategy :

* Be the Pre-eminent integrated Producer/Broadcaster for consumers & brands within the UK

* Create a leading ‘ Direct to Consumer’ business in the UK with strong consumer relationships.

* Become a World Class Creative force in the global Content markets.

* Create a lean & agile organisation in the UK with leading capabilities in data analytics & technology

* Be a future facing modern, & digital brand that’s relevant to all viewers & brands.

* Continue to be a sustainable, cash generating & growing business which delivers to all shareholders.

When I heard Carolyn talk about these areas on the radio this am, then I found her uncharacteristically quasi nervous. True, it didn’t help that BBC Radio 4 introduced her as ‘Davina McCall'(!), but she still appeared nervy-aggressive mode.

Looking at each of these areas in turn :

> Stronger Producer/Broadcaster links : there is a reference to 360 degree commissioning & closer ties with ITV Studios. There are a couple of issues here in that ITV had historically operated as 3 separate islands.When one considers that most companies have 3 areas of activities to focus on, i.e Manufacturing,Distribution & Commercialisation, then pre Adam Crozier, rather than these 3 units flowing harmoniously into each other, they chose to keep their distance. To be fair Adam Crozier did try to crash these together but I still feel there is a way to go before the Commissioning/Studios relationship operates at full tilt.
Although ITV Studios still takes captures the majority of commissioned slots, the 25% Indie Production quota & other factor still mean there is heaps of work to do in this area.
Love Island, & to a much lesser extent The Voice, have opened up the 360 degree commissioning door, but it has been very reluctantly opened & ITV has been really slow to venture into this space, mainly in the belief that all that counted was the ‘on air’ piece.

> Direct to Consumer business : ITV has long had the potential to excel in this area – after all it does reach 98% of the population, so in theory has 50 million customers. However, a mixture of antiquated regulations & a non willingness of previous management regimes to invest in this area, has lead to it rather missing the boat to date. One only has to look at the success of M6 in France, that has long sold its own & licensed products off its own screen to see how successful this could be. Love Island has been a huge success in this area & gradually some of the events, such as This Morning Live, are bearing promising fruits. Carolyn needs to be bold & aggressive in this area, the £100 million 3 year target looks ok at first glance, but it will still represent a fraction of the overall revenues. ITV has long made ‘other people’ rich in this area & with the right regulatory approval she should look to line ITV’s treasure chests with even more gold in this respect.

> World Class Creative Force in the Global Markets : whilst I massively respect all the Creatives in ITV Studios & believe that they are all massively passionate & talented people, I worry about the scale of investment required to support this Creative Community in order to truly become a force in the global markets. Very few formats from ITV have gone truly global & the US in particular has been an extremely difficult to crack. The purchase of Talpa, at US $500 million by the previous management team was an attempt to buy a global Entertainment hit, but that now looks like an expensive purchase.
The UK & The US have traditionally been the breeding ground for global hits but the scale of investment required to bring hit shows to global audiences now looks very daunting as the Big players – Disney, Netflix, Amazon, Comcast et al are rapidly growing & building content slates for global rather than local audiences. ITV does of course co-fund & even tri-fund International Dramas , but nothing in Carolyn’s words point to how she is really going to win the new global content war ( or even have a slightly bigger piece of it ). Home grown shows such as Come Dine With Me, I am a Celebrity NGMOH & now Love Island, are having international success but one can’t help feeling that although ITV is a Big High Street Content store in the UK, it remains but a ‘pop up staol’ from an international viewpoint.

> Data Analytics & Technology – there is not much to say here as ITV has traditionally ran away from this area & really lagged behind. Carolyn’s experience at Easyjet will definitely reap dividends in this space, but the questions remain are how much will she really spend on this area & how quickly will this investment pay off ? She has already made hires in this area, so stay tuned & let’s see what happens in the times ahead.

> Be a Future Facing modern & Digital Brand : this is one of the most interesting areas & the one I feel is vital to ITV’s future health. Given that ITV makes the bulk of its money from brand advertising, then it is somewhat bizarre that ITV has spent such small sums of money advertising & marketing its’ own brand.
Historically ITV’s own on air marketing ( said to be worth in excess of £350 mill per year ) across its own channels was the traditional way it advertised. This was fine in a 3/4/5 channel world & with 98% reach then it did the job.
However, as times rapidly changed ITV did not & as less people watched ITV , then less people became aware of the brand & the shows on its channels. In effect ITV’s SOV in the Broadcast marketing arena was less than Sky, C4 or even C5. None of these issues can be laid at the door of their Group Marketing Director, Rufus Radcliffe. He engineered a highly successful rebrand a few years back but simply didn’t have a big enough marketing budget to rebuild the brand to the wider British public.
Carolyn spoke about winning back 15 million ‘light viewers’, a decision I whole-heartedly applaud. However, in order to do this ITV needs to have the biggest SOV in the Channel marketing eco-system & use all media outlets, not just their own airspace. Although she mentioned a total company £60 million investment spend, I couldn’t see enough detail to uncover exactly how much of this will go towards this area, but instinctively I don’t feel the full budget will materialise to do a proper job.
There is also a link back here in terms of ‘on air’ & ‘online success’. Launching new shows is an incredibly difficult task, primarily in getting the public to sample Episode 1 of said show. Only a few shows enjoy on air marketing support at ITV, even fewer get off air/or off home channel support. In a world of mass choice then the ability to find a new programme is becoming ever complex & competitive. Despite the creative excellence of a given show, it is still the marketing campaign that leads you to the front door. Awareness is where the whole world of Brands begin, let’s hope ITV really ventures back to the ‘learner slopes’ on this one.

> Continuing to Deliver to Shareholders : there is no doubt about it, ITV has been very well financially run over the past 5 years. Profits, dividends, tax control, pension deficits etc are all in fine health. I have long respected ITV’s COO & Group Finance Director, Ian Griffiths, who has done a fabulous job in this zone. Sadly Ian will leave at the end of the year, so Carolyn needs an equally talented hire to replicate this historical excellence.

There are a couple of items that Carolyn did not really highlight :

> the future of a pan UK Broadcaster VOD/ Streaming platform, i.e Britbox Plus. : having personally lived through the previous attempt at this -Kangaroo- then I still feel this is a great idea , although I suspect that getting a three way deal done with BBC, C4 & ITV as potential partners will be fiendously complex ( just imagine the politics ).
On this occasion the regulator will drop their objections to ‘market dominance issues !’

> The UK TV Ad Market Dynamics : not much offered up here, but just to recap on some issues :

* ITV trades on a ‘share of broadcast budgets’ basis with the vast bulk of their advertising clients & agencies.

* the existence of CRR ( Contracts Right Renewal ) regulatory mechanic linked into this – basically a throwback to 2003 when Carlton & Granada merged to form the new ITV network.
It designed to protect advertisers from ITV’s dominance of market share of primetime audiences. It is so antiquated in a modern era that it is farcical it still survives.

* Share of Broadcast budgets doesn’t really mean a hoot in a digital ecosystem, & ITV needs to be allowed to ditch CRR & get on with the business of working with brands & their agents as it sees fit. There is more than enough competition out there, so nobody should moan about market dominance issues – for those areas pls see Google, Facebook, Amazon etc.

* Whilst I am harping on about the Regulator, then DCMS & Ofcom should really leave ITV alone & allow them to get on with running their business & trying to compete against those scary, highly unregulated Digital giants. It is not just airtime, but product placement, promotional references etc that are land-locked in the 1950s style Boys Club.

* ITV Hub has 25 million registered users with an ambition to get to 30 million , but how many of them are regular, active users of the service ? That’s the key stat required.

My final look inside the engine focuses on the ‘Investment’ side of Carolyn’s plan. She highlights a £60 mill total investment , spread across 3 years, with £40 mill occurring in 2019, but then only £10 mill pa in 2020 & 2021.
Given the scale of the task/ambitions that Carolyn has set herself then this seems a very paltry sum & smacks to me of ‘pleasing the City’, rather than ‘really going for it ?’
Surely the marketing investment in its own right to find the 15 million light viewers & make the ITV brand accessible to all in a highly competitive ecosystem warrants a significant chunk of this ? Let alone the data analytics/technology improvements ?
I am worried that this smacks of the Short Term vs Long Term debate I have often cited in previous blogs. The task ahead to keep ITV in the rudest of health will require a substantial investment yet Carolyn seems stymied by the desires of the investment community to extract short term gains. She even offers up £40 mill of cost savings to help partially pay for the additional investment. Whilst cost savings are an ongoing house keeping task for every CEO, it feels like a ‘static response’ to me. I just wish she had been bolder & hoped to convince shareholders that ‘now’ really was the time when a ‘real investment’ was required in order to safeguard ITV’s long term future.
Finally we need to consider if ITV will remain a lovely but small UK focused company or that it really will be gobbled up by bigger prey ? Liberty Global or one of its cohorts ? It cannot possibly compete in the Global Content markets without a Bigger Brother/Sister.
Ny overriding feeling is that the ‘Sun Queen’ has outlined all the conditions for future success but has refused to play any high risk cards & has opted for the game of ‘stick’ rather than ‘twist’.
Namaste x

By Gary Knight

Why Influencers are no longer ‘Waste Cadets’.

Why Influencers are no longer ‘Waste Cadets’.
What a melt! Unless you have been visiting your Great Auntie Edith in the upper reaches of the Orinoco, then the real event of the summer has begun…no, not the World Cup but Love Island! With over 85,000 hopefuls applying for the show (apparently more candidates than apply to get into Oxbridge) then this season promises to eclipse the dizzy heights the series reached in 2017. In fact, the first episode reached 3.5 million people, more than last year’s grand finale.
So, aside from putting down your list of irregular French verbs & learning the ‘new language of Love Island, ‘ have you been in the ‘Blazin’Squad ? ‘, then the other phenomenon the show raises is the modern world of ‘ Influencers’ & how they are interacting with brands.
Since I have been working with Champions, The Brand Agency & their highly regarded Influencers Team , I have been amazed at how this genre has moved on from its origins of ‘YouTube videos in my bedroom ‘, with Zoella & her crowd promoting make up, fashion items etc, to a robust & often mainstream marketing activity that is proving highly profitable & effective for client companies.
So, let’s explore a little deeper & uncover the real truth about the Influencer Market.
Straight out of the blocks is the fact that this market is already huge. In 2017, Influencer marketing carried an estimated worth of $2bn. But in just two years, we will see it bring in $10bn, as Influencers continue to take the market to new heights.
Influencer marketing is the digital alternative to word-of-mouth marketing. By using an individual with a vast social media following, brands can communicate a message, product, opinion or campaign to a mass audience.
Influencers are no longer land locked on social media sites as brands have begun to utilise their power across the whole Multiplatform ecosystem, from PR, to Experiential to Direct Marketing.
I am also greatly encouraged by some of the unified creativity in play across various Influencer led campaigns. Some of my favourite recent examples are :
Microsoft ‘Real People: Emma Gannon’ – part of a TV ad and online videos. One of the first major TV ads using an influencer. https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/microsoft-real-people-emma-gannon-mccann-erickson/1435718
Here is another brilliant example, with a very different twist :
L’Oréal and The Princes Trust campaign ‘All Worth It’ – wanting to have a bigger purpose then just selling products and giving back to the community. Using Influencer and brand ambassadors from all walks of life to talk about challenges they have faced;
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyd_yKIBWVk (example of the content one of the influencers has produced)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kouBAbPI7sw (another example)

So why is this ‘gang’ so popular with brands & consumers alike?
– They are leaders of their tribe: Influencers have become experts in their industry. Categorising their videos and content makes it far easier for consumers to find them & attach themselves to the ongoing dialogue.
– They are brilliant storytellers: while simply mentioning a brand in a video or blog can be beneficial, it often lacks authenticity between brand and Influencer.
So, Influencers often create a narrative around a brand they collaborate with. They show followers how the brand slots into their personal lifestyle.
Both of these key benefits link into our Human DNA, as at out heart we are a ‘social’ species & we crave contact with each other. Being part of & accepted into a ‘tribe’ lives at the very of our being.
– They have 24-hour access to target audiences: Influencer marketing is an industry that never sleeps. No matter what time of day it is, there is always content to be read and watched.
This means Influencers, and subsequently the brands they work with, have an endless opportunity to reach out to their audiences in all four corners of the world. After all, while one audience sleeps, the other is awake and ready to engage.
This sounds all fab, but is there any real evidence that client companies get ‘real payback’ from their association with this talent ?
Indeed, there is! Recent research has found that for every £1 spent on a talent-led campaign, brands are getting back £17.21 – making their move into Influencer marketing an extremely financially sound choice.
Of course, there are hurdles along the path & it is vital that brands find the right influencers & build campaigns with them that have an ‘authentic voice’. Even ardent fans will spot a mile off an Influencer who is ‘flogging’ a brand that is completely out of sync with their own personality/values/core area of expertise.
Managing Influencer campaigns needs to rest in expert hands & 84% of clients recently surveyed stated that it was vital to use a specialist agency, such as Champions, to maximise the effectiveness of these relationships.
Brands desperately need to create emotional attachments with consumers & in my mind’s eye I believe Influencers can become ‘ the ultimate marketing machine’.
I’m off to catch up on last night’s Love Island, otherwise everyone will think I have gone all ‘muggy’.
Namaste.

1 2
Winnie the Pooh goes to Cannes
Return to the Court of the Sun Queen
The Evolved Leader is the most desired of all the species
Inside the Bloody Chamber
Travellers there are no Roads, Roads are made by Walking
The Sun Queen begins to build her Pyramids
Proclamations from the Court of the Sun Queen
Why Influencers are no longer ‘Waste Cadets’.