Elsewhere: Get Down Shep

A little like counting the rings on a tree, you can age somebody who grew-up in 1970s Britain by the main television characters they reference.

John Noakes, Flickr, by Si Wilson.

In Radio Reflections I wrote about how, when I was growing up, the media landscape was very different than it is today.   A landscape of fewer channels means that, like counting the rings on a tree, you can age somebody who grew-up in 1970s Britain by the main television characters they reference.  For some it might be Zammo or ‘Gripper’ Stebson in Grange Hill. Maybe a little later it would be Scott and Charlene in Neighbours.  But, I think, for most of my generation the real telltale dating come from your Doctor (mine was Tom Baker) and your Blue Peter presenters.  For me, Lesley Judd, Peter Purves and John Noakes were  Monday and Thursday television.

Earlier today, the BBC announced the death of John Noakes. The Guardian leads their obituary with this story, which I think sums up the adventurer-spirit,

In 1977, the television presenter John Noakes, who has died aged 83, climbed Nelson’s Column without safety harness or insurance, for an episode of the BBC’s enduring children’s show Blue Peter. After shinning up one ladder, Noakes swung himself dauntlessly on to another, tilted 45 degrees from the vertical. “At this level,” said Noakes in a voiceover, “the plinth on which Nelson stands overhangs the column. I found myself literally hanging on from the ladder with nothing at all beneath me.”

Throughout the time I watched, John was always accompanied by Shep, described as ‘an enthusiastic border collie’.  Shep & John went everywhere together: they really were a double act. Noakes was known for his catchphrase, “Get Down Shep” but I wonder if it really was uttered that often?

I think you pass from famous to national treasure in Britain once we’re able to take have a little fun with you. For John Noakes, he may already have been a National Treasure before The Barron Knights released Get Down Step, but this cemented that status.

(I posted a slightly shorter version of this earlier on Facebook)

Will The Internet Kill Television?

An article in The Economist prompted me to think about how television has changed in my lifetime and why it’s taken a little bit of time for it to be threatened by the internet.

In my lifetime being connected to an always on computer network, the internet, has changed almost everything: from what you for a living; how to file your tax return about that employment and how your order form your local takeaway when you get home. Some things seem to have radically changed very quickly. When I first started working on digital advertising with major UK publishers, editors held-back news stories for the printed edition (next month) rather than post in today’s online news. I guess, they’re now tweeting it for themselves first as there’s no printed edition of many of those publications any more.

But, will the Internet kill television in the UK?

BBC Test Card

Television has behaved a little differently. When I was born there were only 3 UK television channels and not everything was broadcast in colour. Fast forward to when I was 12 and the Whiteley-Vorderman duo hosted, effectively, the first programme (Countdown) on the fourth channel. It was a slow and highly regulated evolution.

As with everything, over then next 30 years the pace of change increased. The UK went through the dish wars with the Sky-BSB years (check-out these BSB promos promising five channel television: they feel very dated indeed now) and a fractured cable industry only really came to be a player with the merger of NTL and Telewest in early 2006.

I guess it was February 2005 when video on the truly internet arrived (YouTube launched) but I think you can be forgiven for looking at the media landscape back then and thinking the internet was primarily for the written word even if, within 2 years, Netflix was launching a DVD streaming service. But the internet develops video models for business very quickly. Just this week, YouTube announced it will stop supporting the 30-second unskippable advertising format that has been the backbone of broadcast TV for decades. Can television continue to hold on to that model?

A couple of weeks ago, The Economist ran an article that explains some of the economics of television and how they are changing.

The internet has already changed what viewers watch, what kind of video programming is produced for them and how they watch it, and it is beginning to disrupt the television schedules of hundreds of channels, too. But all this is happening in slow motion, because over the past few decades television has developed one of the most lucrative business models in entertainment history, and both distributors and networks have a deeply vested interest in retaining it.

Television’s $185bn advertising business is a hefty war-chest to fight the challenge of change. I wonder how it will look in five more years? Will it be radically different – in the way printed media is now so different – or, like its broadcast parents, will television for the internet continue a slower evolution?

I also wonder when my own habits will change. When will I consume more content delivered via the broadband connection than over the broadcast air? It can’t be that far away.

Elsewhere: 72 baps, Connie. You slice, I’ll spread.

I felt compelled to note the passing of Victoria Wood and Prince this week. Such shocking news. I wrote something earlier on Facebook that included a link to a lovely piece by The Guyliner that sums up Victoria Wood’s influence on many people’s lives.

What a week it’s been: losing Victoria Wood and Prince – two icons from my childhood.

I was going to write something about Victoria Wood. Somewhere I have the audio of several episodes of As Seen on TV that were recorded with a microphone propped up against the television. It was the kind of thing you would want to listen to over and over. Of course, many of the sketches are now available on YouTube.

However, I think this tribute says it all and leaves me time to go & find another Susie Blake sketch to watch. Very Wise, With Those Hips” – A Tribute To Victoria Wood

As Paul said on Twitter, “Tough week for a teen of the ’80s”.

Internet Ad Spend will Overtake TV Spend in …. Yawn.

A couple of months ago, the same data from the PWC Global Entertainment & Media Outlook popped-up a couple of times in my Twitter feed. I meant to write about it then but I’ve got around to it now as part of my BEWA plan.

The most re-tweeted factoid stated that, “By 2018, Internet advertising will be poised to overtake TV as the largest advertising segment” and concluded with the line “We are approaching a major tipping point in the advertising universe“.

I’ve made a career out of Internet advertising for more than 17 years. I delivered my first online ad a couple of years earlier as an online companion to a traditional radio spot. When we first started these kinds of comparisons were helpful, not only to reassure us that we’d made the right career choice, but also to convince our bosses that this really was a growing market and they might help us by employing another person to help us figure out what to do.

As an industry we were pleased when online ad-spend eclipsed various forms of print, billboards and even those radio ads I’d spent years working with.  I acknowledge it’s an interesting barometer and makes for some nice graphs for somebody’s next ‘speaking opportunity’.

But, today, comparing the vast opportunities of ‘Internet Advertising’ as a single place of ad-spend while breaking down ‘offline’ spend into it’s component segments doesn’t feel right to me. The IAB (using US-centric data) tells us that, in 2013, 43% of Internet advertising spend was search. Classifieds make-up 6% of the Internet spend. There seems very little point in comparing these numbers to television.

(Much more significant for TV is the kind of spend-shift outlined in a Bloomberg piece about Nike, but that’s for another day).

Surely, it’s connected vs non-connected advertising. The tipping point is coming but it’s not when Internet spend passes TV spend. It’s when spending on connected advertising surpasses non-connected advertising.


I don’t have access to the whole PWC Outlook which may very well put these numbers into a more subtle context that 140 characters can not convey.

My BEWA project resulted in a post about one of the stars of the the Australian television show Neighbours; an entry about writing the perfect technology RFP that allows companies to better work with you; a follow-up post about better user design and this about internet (or connected) advertising figures. Place your bets on if there will be a post next Wednesday,


In Recovery Mode

For most of the weekend before last (and parts of the week either side) I was in Amsterdam at IBC. IBC is essential an enourmous broadcasting technology conference & exhibition; although its styling itself for the electronic media industry.

How long does it take to recover from a week in Amsterdam? Given it’s now Monday, I will say about five days. Of course, your mileage may vary etc. etc.

For most of the weekend before last (and parts of the week either side) I was in Amsterdam at IBC. IBC is essentially an enormous broadcasting technology conference & exhibition; although its styling itself for the electronic media industry. While the focus appears to me to be technology there is, apparently, a decent representation from the creative side of the industry. It’s been around for years and it’s quite important to many in the broadcast sector. While I’ve known about it for a long time, and have watched colleagues go before, I’ve never been myself. Upon arrival at the conference, prepare yourself: I found the size quite daunting. I suspect extensive, advance planning your visits/meetings etc. is the key to the experience.

Friends often ask me about this kind of event. Is it a trade show, conference, place for old friends to meet/excuse for a drink? Well, I know that this time I probably encountered the lot but I have never been so exhausted after a conference in all my life which is why it’s taken me five days to get the photos up onto Flickr. Although the hotel that they put us up in was very nice, central & restful; there is a lot (an awful lot) of walking. Tip: take a map showing the location of the RAI conference centre and your hotel. Walking between the two may be a trek but it saves waiting for the cabs or trams as the centre closes each day.

The thrilling thing (at least for me) was that it was the culmination of many months of work to have our advertising management tool deliver targeted, addressable advertising to video on demand systems. Microsoft, of course, had a fantastic stand in the Topaz lounge where all sorts of great technologies were being showcased. Check out some of the things Silverlight can do. But for me, the television screens in the corner connecting AdManager to Mediaroom were what it was all about. This meant that I stood, for many hours, watching the same video clips and advertisements (and I still want a pizza despite – or, perhaps because of – seeing a pizza ad several hundred times) but the response from customers, partners & prospects was great. You can read about the Mediaroom Advertising Platform on the official press rele

ase for the event.

I think targeted, addressable advertising is future for advertising; and I don’t think that’s a big announcement at all. Many people in advertising will say they’ve been doing it for years. What’s direct mail advertising, after all? However, in the digital world the key issue will be defining what is meant by targetable or addressable. Many years ago we used ‘targeting’ to describe how we were able place an advertisement on a particular page on a web site. Other areas of the advertising industry have used it describe demographics or audience segments. Isn’t Amazon’s “customers who bought” suggestions a great form of highly targeted promotion? The main problem is that we have no standard, industry definition of what we mean by targeted or addressable. Amazon knows my purchase history – it should be easy to target on that. But what about mobile or television advertising? How to we define what’s targetable. I agree that we still have some research to do in this area.

As an aside, it’s worth recognising that with little effort, many things are targetable, including personal data. But that’s not what I am referring to here. Privacy policies, user information, declared data etc. are all the scope of legislation and deserve a better piece of writing than this. No, I’m suggesting that the industry simply need to standardise what it means targetable advertising as a starting point for us all.

There were plenty of other people demonstrating similar things in this and related fields. It’s interesting to see that the television business is not, contrary to the predictions of You Tube doom, standing still. If IBC is anything to go by there’s a whole heap of innovation for those of us who watch television which could dramatically change our experiences. I’m looking forward to seeing which make it to the mainstream.

Apart from watching television advertising all day, Amsterdam was a fun place to be. It being my birthday in the middle of it all there was a desert with a sparkling candle in it, presented to me a great steak restaurant, whose name I have lost and, therefore, can’t recommend. Thanks to all my UK colleagues for that. After we had packed away, there was a canal tour to pass an hour or two before heading to the airport, arranged by some of my US colleagues (some of whom had not visited Amsterdam before).  There was even a bar showing American football and a late night team of my US friends trying to explain the rules to me. I’m not certain I mastered them, I’m afraid. Sadly, there wasn’t enough time to catch up with my old friends from my days in the radio distribution business. Hopefully, another year.

It was an exhausting week but a great glimpse of where we are taking the technology.

Disclaimer: the views here are my own and are not necessarily the opinions of my employer (who sent me) nor customers (who I spoke to while there). You have read the full disclosure, haven’t you?


Update: 29 September: Added some links to related commentary at Connected TV.

Eurovision Is Not A Serious Song Contest

So, what happened this year? Why are you so frustrated? Why are we suddenly upset about the bias? Simply because we did not do well? That’s a little childish, isn’t it?

Semifinal 1 EUROVISION 2008
Originally uploaded by proteusbcn

Dear Sir Terry

This weekend was the Eurovision Song Contest; the annual spectacle of music, strange traditional consumes & dubious musical interpretation of songs (and, as you might say, that’s just the interval acts). It was as it has ever been: a pile of unconnected international pop pap presented as a serious content. The most important thing, you must agree, is to remember your sense of humour. Over the years, you have urged us not to take it too seriously.

I wasn’t around for the 60s Brit-winners such as Sandy Shaw or Lulu. I don’t really remember the song contests of the mid-70s when classics from Abba and the Brotherhood of Man were born. I do remember Johnny Logan, Bucks Fizz and Bobbysocks in all their 1980s glory. When Ireland went on a winning streak in the mid-90s we were holding Eurovision parties in our University flats. It was fun and an excuse – if one was really needed – to get very drunk and laugh at rubbish songs. Which we did with an international feel.

So, what happened this year? Why are you so frustrated? Why are we suddenly upset about the bias? Simply because we did not do well? That’s a little childish, isn’t it?

The Scandinavians always voted for each other (as they did this year). For goodness sake, we always expect Ireland to vote for the UK and vice versa (and we hope Malta does too) while we know the French won’t. Call it political, call it similar musical tastes but that’s how it’s always been. It’s not going to change. But that doesn’t stop it being wonderfully silly entertainment in the best sense.

The last 10 contests have been won by Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Turkey, Ukraine, Greece, Finland, Serbia and Russia. If we take the 90s as the point when Eastern Europe started to enter the content then that makes it five wins to the new countries (Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine, Serbia & Russia) and 5 wins to the older entrants (Sweden, Denmark, Turkey, Greece & Finland).

Seems pretty fair to me. So, why have you started to loose your sense of humour?


Update on the voting from popbitch: “If only traditional Western European countries had voted this year the UK would have been third from bottom, rather than one of three with the lowest points”.

Boston Legal Series 4 Starts Thursday (but you wouldn’t know it)

If you expressed each year as a percentage of your life to date then each one is worth less than the the one before.

2008. Go on say it, 2008. How did we get here? Not only 2008 but, basically, February 2008. I really want to go and shout it from the rooftops: February 2008. If you expressed each year as a percentage of your life to date then each one is worth less than the the one before. Back in 2000, each year represented about 3.3% of my life; this year that number will be 2.6% of my life. So, I guess, each year appears to pass quicker because it represents less of the time you have spent wandering the earth.

That reads a little gloomily really. I didn’t intend that, it’s just such a while since I was here yet it feels like such a short time.

January is the time of nostalgia where we review the highs and lows of the previous years. I discovered this year that there were only thirteen episodes of Mr Benn. Honestly, only thirteen yet it seemed like a thousand. See, I can count my life in trivial TV facts. Can it really be 18 (or maybe 19) years since Michael Cashman played Colin in EastEnders? Is it really six years since Gary Lucy last appeared in Hollyoaks? The actor who used to play Adric in Doctor Who now lives in Connecticut. Yes, these are the great televisual questions than we grapple with through the years.

We all love television programmes in some way. So, why then, in this multi-channel age is it almost impossible to know when a new series of your favourite television show is on. Boston Legal, one of the best TV shows on today, starts a brand new fourth series on Thursday on Living TV. But you wouldn’t know because it’s not been promoted well. They have been showing ‘coming soon’ promotions for a few weeks but I’ve only just seen the date. I could easily have missed it. Pop along to the Living TV web site and it’s mentioned but I am not checking every day. Perhaps I should, ‘Extreme Skinny Celeb Mums’ must be post in itself .


Where is the TV episode alert system? Somebody should do it. Get a simple email notifying you when the next series of your favourite shows start. Prison Break back on Sky One? Just a little note to let you know.I don’t want to know when every episode is aired. I can find that out once I know the series is starting but I can’t watch all the channels all the time and would like a little reminder.

And a reminder when Phil is back on TV never hurt anybody. The calendar for 2008 is Phil Olivier.

What’s The 20th Most Complained About Show On UK TV?

When somebody loves what they do, how can that enthusiasm not be infectious?

Occasionally you are required to browse the information super-highway for things related to work. And, more often than not, on that journey you get side tracked by something in the way. A little like driving to Abergavenny and being stuck behind a caravan for most of the time on the A40. Which is interesting as I suspect that caravan owners are the biggest group of people to complain to the BBC about Top Gear. And it is the fact that, according to Ofcom, Top Gear is the 20th most complained about show on TV that stopped me in my tracks today. The BBC has – apparently – been forced to make a statement, “We acknowledge some viewers do not appreciate the Top Gear team’s sense of humour but their provocative comments are an integral part of the programme and are not intended to be taken seriously,” [Top Gear: 0 to offensive in 6.5 seconds from Guardian Unlimited: Organ Grinder] said Auntie.

The thing is I, John Plunkett (who wrote the article for The Guardian’s website) and, I guess, millions of others love watching three blokes talking about cars on the telly. And I am not interested in cars that much. I’m not sure Jeremy Clarkson and I would get on very well (mainly because I wouldn’t be able to stop laughing at him) but that doesn’t stop me enjoying every word that he speaks. Richard Hammond is, of course, there to be both amusing and the totty to watch. And then there’s James May. You couldn’t have Top Gear without him but one of the great mysteries is why not. Ultimately, I love the banter between the presenters more than anything else. Except the bits about racing fast cars. I like that too.

I am not surprised so many people complain. It’s often rude, politically incorrect and responsible for a large part of the hole in the ozone layer. It’s also funny, self-deprectaing and addictive television. It is, also, television made with passion. And that’s what makes it stand head and shoulders above much of the dross on the box at the moment. When somebody loves what they do, how can that enthusiasm not be infectious? Sunday nights. BBC2.

New Doctor New Earth

Doctor’s back 😉

david tennant is the new doctor whoThe Doctor was back tonight and the new Doctor is just as good as the last. The first episode of this new series, New Earth, was great. Rose, invaded by Casandra, and shouting I’m a Chav was a very unexpected amusing moment: almost as amusing as the Doctor saving the earth with a satsuma in the Christmas episode. Saturday nights are settled until the summer then.

UPDATE: You really should go and look at the BBC’s Doctor Who website for the new series – it’s really well done and there are tons of extra features & material online.

Catherine Tate

The Catherine Tate show has just ended its run on television. Sob.

I am so sad right now. The Catherine Tate show (which follows Extras on BBC2 on Thursday nights) has just come to the end of it’s pitifully short run. It’s by far the best comedy sketch show there has been for a long, long time. I love all the characters but the ‘I d’know’ couple make me laugh before they open their mouths. Foul-mouth Gran, Lauren (Am I bothered? Am I bothered though?) and Derek (How Very Dare You) just make me smile the whole time. What a shame this is ending. Please, BBC bring it back soon.

UPDATE 30 August: Amazon have the Catherine Tate Show Series One DVD on sale now.

The Match

A reality TV show where the stars are hot!

picture of gary lucypicture of philip olivierReally, it’s too good to be true. Tonight Sky One starts a reality TV show called the match where a series of hot young male celebrities become footballers. I think many of those signed up for The Match have a footballing interest/past which means they should be pretty good. Next week they get to take on a team of British footballing legends but in the meantime they are all stuck in a house 24/7 with cameras watching them only to escape for training sessions. Tonight’s proved it was the real deal as ex-England coach Graham Taylor took the team through their paces. Gary Lucy and Philip Olivier (both pictured) are on the bench tonight and subject to the public vote. Somehow I think they will both survive. And while we are on the subject of Phil Olivier, how did I miss his Doctor Who appearances?