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Top of the Marketing Charts - May 2024

Time for the monthly round up of what went on in marketing in 2024. This edition covers some great work released, AI, pre-testing and more. But I am sure there are things that we have missed, so leave a comment with your top moments from May 2024


Serving Facts

I got to see Kory Marchisotto present at the CreatorIQ event in London at the start of the month and she was incredible (as was the event, thanks Brit Starr ). At the event she shared the work that they had just released with Billie Jean King (watch here). The tennis legend serves up facts about the lack of corporate boardroom diversity in brilliantly entertaining work. What I love about the approach E.L.F. BEAUTY has taken here is they have leaned into a serious issue with humour and got it spot on.  E.L.F. have also released their too many dicks campaign, E.l.f. found that men named Richard, Rick, and Dick claim a disproportionate number of boardroom seats. Great work by the elf team. This team is on fire, their work is incredible and they have reported over $1 billion in sales in their FY24 .



Well marketing lost it’s collective s**t about the new apple ad. Now I have said before that I (and I hope most) take no pleasure from any sort of work being released into the world and getting absolutely roasted. Apple didn’t just make this on a whim, lots of people would have been involved and 100’s of decisions made. 

But as Damian Devaney said on this podcast “a good ad is hundreds of decisions the right way, on top of a brilliant idea.” and it is here that it feels like it went wrong for apple, they made lots of bad decisions on top of a not brilliant idea. To make matters worse people then showed Apple what they should have done, reversing the ad, then they called out that LG had made the same ad years before. 

And while Apple were as low as they could be (emotionally) and making an apology Samsung responded by suggesting they, unlike apple, were not crushing creativity. The speed of their response was impressive. But ugh what a mess. Has Apple crushed creativity like everyone has suggested? I'd argue no, surely they have helped democratise it or at least make it somewhat more accessible. Anyone with a phone can be a creator. Is that a bad thing?


To Pre-Test or not to Pre-Test that is the question?

Well it definitely was in a big topic in May. These conversations are always great to have and as is demonstrated so often on That’s What I Call Marketing, there often isn't one correct answer so getting into the details a bit more is good as it causes people to think and understand things more deeply. 

So what is the debate? Well it can be broken down into: pre-testing is bad and is killing creativity Vs pre-testing is deadly and makes work more effective. Now personally I have seen first hand the benefits of pre-testing, but, here comes the but ….. “you need to understand what is behind it”, as someone much smarter than me, sarah carter. In a LinkedIn video shared by Les Binet Sarah said you need to understand the numbers, understand the questions being asked and know what people are reacting to is not anything like the finished material will be. For me, and Sarah makes this point, context is key. The way the ad will appear in the real world, for example the programming it is surrounded by, the position in ad break, the ads around it, all these things matter.

Fergus O'Carroll shared his view, based on a conversation with Sofia Colucci , Molson Coors CMO. Fergus says that “Certain research companies are doing a great job of normalising pre-testing. They’re making it feel like everyone’s doing it, that it's a predictor of success, or at least a minimizer of risk. That they can predict effectiveness and have a formula to get you there”. He went on to say in a LinkedIn post that they’re dramatically softening the chances of you ever standing out. “We have to be careful not to fully buy into this. We have to ask the tough questions about the methodology, and the questions being asked. We have to ask to see the testing in action. And we have to better question the conclusions that can honestly be drawn from simplistic scores and star ratings. As Sofia suggests, buying fully into all this can lead to focusing on beating the test rather than being original. Our job is not to beat the test, it’s to build the business”. Ok I’m totally bought into that idea. So again we are talking about understanding and being curious (yeh there I go again about curiosity!).

Writing in Marketing Week Mark Ritson disagrees with the position shared by the likes of Fergus and Sofia saying that pre-testing has changed “And with those changes, it’s time to acknowledge that to push back against pre-testing is to reveal a lack of awareness of these changes, and the opportunities they present to avoid failure and improve effectiveness”. Mark points out that the pre-testing of old (a terrible storyboard) is a thing of the past and sophisticated animatics (he shares a Carlsberg example) show how far that has come.  Mark shares an example from Sky UK, who were sceptical about System 1s pre-testing and they actually put the testing to a test and found out, based on historic ads and real world results, that the testing was a very good predictor of performance. Good news for System1 - it's a like a free ad (that wasn’t pre-tested!). 

Peter Field joined in too, again writing in Marketing Week, to support Mark Ritsons point AND give System 1 more backing - “We found the campaigns that did best in System1’s pre-testing methodology were considerably more effective than those that tested worst. Peter shares data to back all of this up and says that pre-testing levels have fallen and in his view marketers are missing a trick if you don’t pre-test."

Never one to shy away from a debate Byron Sharp posted on LinkedIn saying that “I used to be a fan of pre-testing until I looked at the evidence. If it were a pharmaceutical it would have been withdrawn from the market”. To be fair I do love the analogy. 

So once again in marketing we have two very different views that are strongly held. So what do marketers do? 

Talking on the Mindless Marketer series with Marc Binkley and Vassilis K. Douros , Conor Byrne says (hang on thats me, I don’t need the quotes) that I worry about the issues this creates for smaller brands who are thinking about a foray into advertising but cannot afford to pre-test, are they missing a trick?

Max Keane sums it up well writing in The Drum says “we have allowed ourselves get to the point of mushy middle work….pre-testing doesn’t have to mean paint by numbers….it is incumbent on us to be better guardians.” He points out that pre-testing isn’t going anywhere (look away now Byron Sharp!) and calls on creative agencies and pre-testing agencies to become allies in the pursuit of great work. As I have said, I have seen the benefits of pre-testing but I agree with the points raised, you need to understand the context of the testing and not chase the numbers.


Social killed the TV star

May kicked off with a big bang from Jon Evans , landing the Scott Galloway interview. Now I have had my fair share of professors on the show, but can't quite land the Prof G, so I was definitely keen to listen to what he had to say. 

The big headline was the discussion on the end of the brand era. Now when I listened to it, I wasn’t as horrified as lots of people seemed to be. I think it is very true when he says that pre 1995 (I think thats the date he mentions) people had about 3 channels to watch and 80% of people were in front of the one screen on one of three channels.  Therefore you could reach them easily and through cultural codes sell them things. It worked. And people did drink bud because those frogs were funny (and they were). 

When Scott said “How much advertising does Netlix, Google… I can’t think of the last Amazon commercial I saw… all the big players don’t spend that much. I think advertising outs you as not getting it.” lots of people took exception to that and have pointed out that Amazon actually do a lot of advertising and that is true, what a great Christmas ad they had last year.

And James Hurman posted on LinkedIn saying “Amazon is now the world's largest advertiser. Collectively, these six companies account for over 7% of total global adspend. Millions of advertisers, and six of them account for over 7%? That means they're spending orders of magnitude more than anyone else” 

I think the nuance of this debate, or my read on it at least is, that the classic 30 second ad as the central part of building a brand has changed. It is hard to argue against the fact that how we have thought about advertising has changed, but the fundamentals of building a brand remain strong.  I'm not sure anyone really disagrees with that, do they? Is brand dead? Is marketing dead - nah I don’t buy that. 

Anyway all that aside, for me the most important thing that came out of that episode was Prof G’s thoughts on social media and the damage it and phones are having on kids, the pressure and the negativity are insane. 

In fact if anyone reading this knows anything about product design and manufacture, can you send me a message, I have something I am working on and am stuck on getting a prototype created. This is a genuine call out….if you can help, please send me a message.


Building a Legacy

Building a legacy is something we all strive for. So it was great to kick off a new series with Legacy Communications , launching episode one with GAA legend & entrepreneur Bernard Brogan and communications genius Kevin Moore e talking about how the business started and how they are thinking about building a legacy. It is a story that hasnt been told and for anyone on a journey of building it is an incredible story to listen (listen here)


You've been....

As if to prove Scott wrong, on some level, Tango came out with some new work - an ad. Now anyone who remembers the tango ads of the 90’s will remember who wildly odd and off the wall they were. And by that I mean they were brilliant. This latest ad was aiming to lean into that heritage, I love when brands do this (check out Tooheys New story in Australia with Chris Allan here). Britvic Great Britain marketing director, Munnawar Chishty said. “Tango is back with another mischievous ad, building on our brand’s iconic roots as we continue to break boundaries within the soft drinks category,”  It is great work, the casting is wonderful, the warden is great. But I won’t lie, I was waiting for the warden to get tangoed! Still great to see the brand aiming for fame. Developed by creative agency VCCP and produced by Girl&Bear watch it here.


The State of Sales 

Arktic Fox released a study about what sales leaders are focussed on, digital trends and their impact on sales, competency gaps. A great read for anyone who works with sales (or of course in sales). 

It got really interesting for marketing with a headline that was about the relationship between sales and marketing “50% of sales leaders rate their working relationship with marketing as neutral or ineffective”. 

Eh thats not good news, but neither is this:  “Combined with a lack of trust in marketing teams to focus on what matters and their ability to deliver, often results in sales reps taking matters into their own hands, executing marketing tasks independently to deliver on their sales objectives” 

The problem seems to lie in the lack of understanding amongst sales leaders as to what marketing can and should do. It is astounding that this gap exists, but sometimes not surprising. Especially in organisations that are built ‘sales first’ and marketing comes in as a support function (and is called that) with often one person to support 20/30/100 sales people. That is not a situation where the marketing person is set up for success and leads to early friction in the relationship. You can listen to more about this in our B2B Marketing time for a reboot episode here.

The marketer can often be junior and not feel confident enough to say no to doing the wrong things and the whole thing is set to fail from day 1. Any sales leaders reading this, there are a lot of senior marketers that are available to help you with this early set up of marketing, the likes of The Indie List have fractional marketing leaders on hand who can ensure a marketing structure is built for success. 

The report offers more insights and suggests shared KPIs as a path for success, just make sure they are the right set of long and short term KPIs. 


Losing the smile

McDonald's UK, have removed the iconic smile from millions of Happy Meal boxes to prompt family discussions about emotions. Research commissioned by McDonald’s highlights a startling statistic: nearly half (48%) of UK children feel pressured to be happy constantly. In response, McD's has distributed 2.5 million limited-edition Happy Meal boxes to over 1,400 restaurants nationwide. These boxes come with stickers depicting various emotions, allowing children to express how they feel by customizing their Happy Meal boxes. Nice idea to help normlaise different emotions with kids (see previous point about how phones and social are impacting our kids!). 

Now some people jumped in on this criticising McDonalds for their role in childhood obesity and how that leads to mental health issues. Rio Ferdinand got some backlash too for being part of the campaign. Now I guess there is and have been points made connecting fast food to obesity and that impacts mental well being. But I suppose in McDonalds defence they are trying to highlight an issue, granted they have 2.5million happy meal boxes to shift as well.  

Louise Page from McDonald’s, emphasised the campaign’s goal to encourage positive conversations about mental health within families. I'm not sure if they partnered with a mental health charity in the UK on this one and supported the work they are doing, that probably could have been a nice way to close the loop and show real commitment to the issue. Maybe they have and I stand corrected.


Another executional miss

Another fail in May when Bumble Inc. launched an ad campaign around a new product feature. Now users of the app will know that it is well known as the platform where women “make the first move,’. This is because the app had a requirement that women send the initial message to men in heterosexual pairings. Bumble changed that feature to allow women to pre-set an opening question rather than send a message every time in a product release. That seemed to go swimmingly but the ad campaign that went with it did not. Bumble created OOH ads that had “edgier” headlines like “You know full well a vow of celibacy is not the answer”.  

Chief Marketing Officer Selby Drummond said in a press release “We wanted to take a fun, bold approach in celebrating the first chapter of our app’s evolution,” They certainly got attention, but probably not the attention they were hoping for, the reaction was not great Users and followers said that the ad shamed them for choosing not to have sex. Bumble apologised and took down the celibacy-related ads stating “We made a mistake. Our ads referencing celibacy were an attempt to lean into a community frustrated by modern dating, and instead of bringing joy and humor, we unintentionally did the opposite,”.

Again not to celebrate this in anyway, but more what is the learning for us, well I think we have all been in situations where we get carried away by an idea and run with it, with excitement, we all get caught up and we don’t have any checks in place, dissenting voices, diverse voices. I'm not saying Bumble did not do due diligence (or pre-testing), but something went wrong.


Retail killed the TV star

I read in The Grocer that Retail media will be ‘bigger than TV’ by 2025 according to Tesco. Now there are people out there (I'm looking at you Colin Lewis ) who have been telling us this and letting us know that it is where the budgets are moving to. In the UK Tesco will treble the number of digital screens in stores to 6,000 by the end of this year. Tesco is also planning a rollout of next-generation handheld scanners. These will target millions of shoppers with hyper-personalised ads as they travel round its stores - I wont lie I quite like the idea of this (love it actually). 

So will Retail Media be bigger than TV by 2025 - well first of all this is Tesco, who are investing in this, telling us this, so just a small pinch of salt maybe. It is important, as Emarketer points out, to look at where the budgets are coming from, so is it taking from TV or other places?  EMARKETER suggest that, in the US Between 60% and 70% of retail media dollars in 2026 will be “net new to retailers,” with the remainder coming from existing retail revenues like trade budgets, sponsorships, events, and promotions. 

That is a big chunk. Meanwhile in the US TV ad spending will fall by 7.7% to $62.42 billion this year while retail media retail media is forecast to grow by more than 20% both this year and next, reaching $55.35 billion in 2024. The gap is certainly closing, or levelling out. Will suppliers spend more on retail media by 2025, I suspect so. Do Tesco want more of the budgets, yes they do. Can Retail media do the same job as TV (eg brand building?) probably not. Will it play an ever increasing role in the mix, and should it, yes.


Search no more

Google Search is about to fundamentally change. At Google’s annual I/O developer conference Elizabeth Reid , head of google search showed off changes in an AI fueled presentation. It seems that AI is now underpinning nearly every product at Google, Reid, quoted in Wired, has said that  “AI Overviews won’t show up for every search result, it will be reserved for more complex questions, for example If you search for, you really just want to go to Walmart,” Reid says. “But if you have an extremely customised question, that’s where we’re going to bring this.” The pace at which this is developing is fascinating.


The Long Run

Closer to Home Expressway - a bus company running services to Dublin Airport - have made a great ad. I’d love to have seen the brief to the agency “make our bus service to the airport enjoyable” We all know the stress of getting to an airport, the luggage, the stress, the 2 hours from long term parking to short term, did I mention the stress. Well they bring it all to life, making is so enjoyable, brilliant casting and delivery. I'm to be convinced the Bus is a better option, but expressway is doing a good job starting to convince me. I can’t find who made this ad - please let me know if it’s you (client and agency). Watch it here.


Her A.I.

Oh do I really want to get into this one! It was big news this month when Scarlett Johansan allegedly accused Open AI of allegedly creating a voice that sounded like her (I will add in a few more allegedly’s). As reported in the Guardian “The Hollywood star said she was “shocked, angered and in disbelief” that the updated version of ChatGPT, which can listen to spoken prompts and respond verbally, had a voice “eerily similar” to hers. 

Johansson, it seems (allegedly), accused the artificial intelligence company of imitating her voice for ChatGPT after she turned down an offer from CEO Sam Altman to be a human voice featured in the AI chatbot's Voice Mode. 

But, according to Fox News, who themselves are reporting from the Washington Post, the agent for a different actress who landed the role says her client was never asked to imitate Johansson's voice. The voice is now replaced according to Bloomberg, “OpenAI pulled the voice .... The decision followed users saying that it sounded unsettlingly like the voice of Johansson”

Bloomberg point out something that needs to be figured out and that is “why women in particular are highlighted in hopes of making people comfortable with technology — questions tech companies must grapple with if they continue to push customers to use ever-more-capable AI assistants”.


Funny Money

I say it every month, I'm not going to mention Uncommon Studios, but then they go and spoil it all by doing something stupid like…..making great work. Give me a break Nils Leonard will you!. This time for the UK’s largest digital bank Monzo Bank. The ad claims to show that no matter how money feels, it feels better on Monzo. The pace of this ad felt quite like the previous work for Communion Saves (which I also loved). It shows situations where money makes you feel bad but monzo makes you feel good.  This is their ATL campaign in 5 years and AJ Coyne, Monzo’s VP of marketing, said: “ evokes a variety of feelings, usually stress, anxiety, avoidance, however our customers tell us that on Monzo money feels different, so much so that they’re seven times more likely to use the word ‘love’ when describing us than any other bank.” we don’t have Monzo here, I wonder would it make my lack of money feel better too?  Check out the work here


The CMO is dead ….long live the CMO

Another Organisation is KILLING the CMO….reported in Markeitng Week Kirsty Hunter , who has been chief marketing officer at Innocent since 2020, and will no longer be CMO. Kirsty is to step into the new role of director, marketing and innovation as the business enters “a new phase of growth”.  The new role is to give her “greater scope to shape the marketing strategy across all regions”, a spokesperson for the brand said. AND she will continue to serve on the company’s board. 

So whats the fuss all about? 

Well Marketing Week quotes Mark Ritson , who has made the  point that changing marketers’ title from CMO distracts from the job at hand. “Look across at the parallel world of finance. If anyone even tried to start a conversation about whether ‘chief finance officer’ was the right title, they would be immediately ejected from the 43rd-floor executive office via the nearest window,” which is a fair point. But on the flip side, here we have a marketer who is taking on a wider remit and surely that’s a good thing? Maybe we should all stop talking about it so much?


Fruity Fun

I love the fun new ad from Thinkhouse for Irish family owned fruit brand Keelings. Keelings is a wonderful brand, great products and I think is pretty much widely loved and trusted. What Thinkhouse have done is injected a bit of fun into advertising fruit in a creative spot that is Irish without being twee. A great office scene (which tend to be boring) brought to life with a drop of B’witched.  I know Jane McDaid was at the On Strategy Showcase recording last week and I wish I had thought about this ad as a great example of an agency doing fun, enjoyable work. Jo Batty , Sales and Marketing Director, Keelings Retail Ireland, said: “This next stage of the brand’s journey was to build on its already well-established credentials, ensuring its relevance in today’s market with consumers” I think you have done that. Watch it here 


Product Rap

I’m a huge Canva fan, hoping to track Zach Kitschke down at Cannes (come say hi Zach). I use the product every day, for a non designer it is so easy to use. So I was waiting to hear what happened at their product conference in LA, keenly watching social for updates on features …..and then my feed blew up with people reacting to product launch.

But it wasn’t a feature or benefit, it was a rap performance, that was addressing enterprise clients concerns, that had people talking. Yes, you are reading correctly…rap.  Comparisons were made on line with Logan Roys rap performance, genius. Apparently the rap was the idea of Canva’s global head of experiential Jimmy Knowles (in the red hat in the video)  Some extreme reactions were about cancelling Canva subscriptions (I mean you aren’t being asked to rap when you design!), co-founder Cliff Obrecht said the rap was “by far” his favourite part of the conference, saying on LinkedIn  “Tech company product launches have essentially tried to be Steve Jobs launching the iPhone since that happened. We decided to be ourselves, do something different and not take ourselves too seriously. Haters gonna hate”. 

I don’t know, but I don’t suspect Canva set about going viral with this (tell me if I'm wrong Canva) but also I don’t imagine anyone is disappointed that they did. Most tech company conferences go wildly unnoticed and product elements normally involve some SVP, rehearsed to within an inch of their live, nervous as all hell, fumbling over a beyond scripted script, trying to get the tiniest ripple of applause. So this is different and if I were Canva I would double down on this next year….go full Eurovision or something. You can watch the performance here and let me know what you think?


Boring B2B Marketing

B2B marketing needs to be boring…you know the funnell and all that. Well the team at say NO to that. I laughed so much when I saw this, the tense opening, the “typical” client requests, the scene when the guy from teamwork comes (so good). I don’t know how much of a departure this is for teamwork, but I hope it works for them and they stick with it. Surely this can prove that enjoyable work works, even in B2B where we talk to people like they are robots. Jenny Hayes & Lubna Quraishi I’d love to hear more about this from you, especially when you get results. Great to see marketing leaders willing to invest in outside-the-lines marketing like this. Watch it here.


A Smug 5Mil

Kerry Foods are merging dairy and oat. I won’t lie this sounds like the weirdest combination to me, but they are pretty smug about it, pumping 5Million behind the campaign. Vicky Southern , strategy, marketing and innovation director with Kerry Dairy Consumer Foods said: “With this first-to-market category launch in the UK we are not only creating a new way for dairy-lovers to do dairy with a bold and exciting new brand but also to creating a dairy category that is fit for the future” 

Oat has certainly disrupted dairy and so this is an interesting innovation, with Im sure lots of research and insight. Apparently there is a trend where people have both oat and dairy in their fridge and are already mixing the two (presumably because they dont like the taste of oat?) and so Kerry Foodservice are going all in, they are definitely putting money where their mouth (or consumers mouths are) on this one. What do you think?


AI safety?

One of my favourite sources of great marketing, Mi3Australia reported that AI lost its AI Safety team “OpenAI had a dedicated team studying the catastrophic risk of models becoming too powerful to be supervised. Not anymore: Team lead Jan Leike quits, slamming the firm's AI safety culture”. It gets pretty damning in the Mi3 article, and these guys, Andrew Birmingham Paul McIntyre, know their stuff, apparently the resignations are due to a “lack of faith in the commitment of OpenAI's leaders and investors to AI safety. Leike, the firm's head of alignment and super alignment, did just that this week.” Jan Leike was quoted as saying building "smarter-than-human machines is an inherently dangerous endeavour" and "OpenAI is shouldering an enormous responsibility on behalf of all of humanity. But over the past years, safety culture and processes have taken a backseat to shiny products”. It is always a concern when someone close to a business is so vocal about these sorts of issues. 


John from work.

Any ad that starts with the line “john from work” delivered brilliantly is going to draw you in, and we all know the importance of those first few seconds of attention. I got to join a Marketing Leadership Materclass session with CMO of Boots Pete Markey . Pete is Marketer of the Year and if anyone has heard Pete speak before will know how engaging he is. He shared so much about his views of marketing, his approach to working with the c-suite and his marketing philosophy. We are working on getting Pete on as a guest so stay tuned for that. Pete mentioned the new summer work from Boots UK , they always do great work and this is a really enjoyable, great casting, and what I found interesting is the brand does not show up until the last quarter of the ad, which means Pete and the team were relying on the opening to continue to engage us, and I think it does, maybe because  Id be as thrilled that we packed the wrong boots bag too. Watch it here


McSavage Attention

Politicians tend not to do great marketing, but when your brother is a comedian you have a bit of a chance of creating something thats a bit different so hats off to Barry Andrews for creating something at least a bit different for the European Elections. And it seems David understands the principles of attention, he must be a fan of Karen Nelson Field (check her episode out here)  If you havent seen his LinkedIn post with David McSavage it is worth a watch, no policies, just family conflict! Check it out here



If you are going to be there - get in touch.


10 guests across 4 new episodes

Another amazing month of guests. I am so blessed to have had these guests say yes to my requests to appear on the show, if you haven't had a chance here is what you have missed with links to catch up


A new Series of workshops

That’s What I Call Marketing has developed a bespoke set of workshops that we can offer and tailor to your needs

  1. Making it work - getting through the first 90 days of a new client agency relationship can be challenging. The joy of the pitch moves quickly to delivering great work. This workshop helps navigate through that and ensure there is no buyers remorse in that first 90 days.

  2. They just don't get me - the client series. A workshop for clients that helps understand the agency world, navigate and establish ways of working

  3. They just don't get me - the agency series. A workshop that delves deep into the world of the client, got behind the curtain to understand why things go off track.

  4. Brand Strategies for Non Profits - after a successful presentation at the non profit summer school we have been asked by non profits to come and support them on establishing transformative brand strategies for their organisations. We are now offering this workshop to more organisations


Well that is it for this month, thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this please do share it with peers and colleagues in the industry. If you disagree with anything here, please leave a comment, equally if you agree let me know. What is missing from this list? Let me know in the comments.

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