Matthew Charlton

Matthew Charlton is the CEO of Brothers and Sisters. He was a founder of BETC London, has run agencies in London, Amsterdam and the US and has worked on brands including Johnnie Walker, PlayStation and Sony Ericsson.

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10 things we should just agree on that will make marketing better in 2018

Brothers and Sisters chief executive Matt Charlton thinks there are 10 things all of us in marketing should all be able to agree on in 2018. Let's find out if he's right.

1. TV seems to work really well for a lot of brands. Thinkbox have a lot of data to prove it. Most of my clients use it as their key business driver. It’s not dead. It is though rather expensive.

2. Social media can work well for brands if aimed at the right audience and the KPIs are clear. But it is much better when it has nothing to do with marketing.  Conversation is rarely genuine when forced to sell. Yes some ideas connect but it is a bit hit and miss from a brand value point of view, so you need to keep the cost of it low incase it fails. Also many of the metrics to measure it are over inflated and often pap. 

3. Research helps clients sleep at night, like a marketing version of Night Nurse mixed with crack. It was, however, mostly totally proven to be nonsense as a useful predictive tool in the last two general elections where more money was spent on it than any brand could conceive. No one wants to talk about it because it’s whats known as an inconvenient truth. Exit polls worked because they were based on actual behaviour. John Hegarty described it as “practising in front of the mirror”. Spend the money instead on making something, or media. 

4. Digital media isn’t transparent. It’s also not always good at finding humans to look at it. But if your primary target audience is a bot then this is ideal stuff. If not don’t spend your saved research cash on that. It’s shamefully sucked money away from projects that actually work for brands. And it’s shamed the industry. There isn’t any need to debate it anymore, just go get those getting rich off it. 

5. Pitching should be about the best idea winning. Otherwise what are we judging? Every agency has good chemistry and wouldn’t be doing it if they didn’t really want the business. Cut price discounts are short time tricks to make up for the idea not being so good. The pitching process is over polluted. Let’s get back a pure model where the only over-analysis is on the quality of the work and what it can do to grow the business. 

6. No more ads need to look like a John Lewis commercial. Are we allowed to say the last two haven’t really been great? That era is over, isn’t it? This Christmas every ad looked the same (apart from TK Maxx). Like 30 hidden Coldplay albums all being realised at the same time. Isn’t advertising supposed to be disruptive? It’s hashtag sentimental of brands and agencies to just photocopy other brands' work. 

7. Clients have become allergic to creativity. Here’s a good one. IBM asked 2500 chief executives globally what single thing will drive future growth and they all said “Creativity”. Meantime a much learned university in the States bothered to measure the reaction of business people when exposed to creative thinking and the results were sheer terror and people shutting down the debate as soon they could. So let's accept the allergy and start treating it directly. 

8. Mindfulness. Marketing needs a big dose of it. The past is depression, the future anxiety. Living in now is happiness. Brands only live in the now. Consumers only buy now. Professor Alan Watts worked out that living in the now is the only thing that’s real. The past and the future are just projections of our own bias. Let's focus on now and forget the rest. 

9. It’s important that everyone makes money. Clients need to make money, agencies need to make money. Let’s take money out the room. It sucks up so much energy. Re-cutting budgets a hundred times, analysing everything to an inch of its life and then being told you're over-burning hours. If you use an agency, start the year agreeing how much money they should make. Let’s say 20% margin and help them make it. Everything will be better and happier and more transparent. You can agree on 5% if you like but I can’t promise the same effect.

10. Making creative work is supposed to be scary as well as exciting. George Lois described himself as in the poison gas business. My old Johnnie Walker client would leave the creative presentation disappointed if he wasn’t scared by what we showed. If it’s not a bit scary it’s not anything. Maybe brands are becoming allergic to fear, not creativity. Maybe that’s the real nut to crack in 2018.

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