Morgan Stanley intern: Why this teen's research paper really matters

Over the past 10 days, Morgan Stanley, an established global financial services provider with offices across the world, saw a 15 year old teen create a lot of noise while interning at the firm’s London office.

Matthew Robson was tasked with the project of writing a report on how teenagers consume media, the kind of job you give the son of a friend who’s asked for a summer internship. “Isn’t the boy sweet? Make sure the office manager offers him a glass of juice, will you?” Anyone who’s worked in an office has had this kind of intern around, kids with an interest in business who’ll gain more insight than you can ever imagine from a few weeks around.

Usually, however, these students leave as quietly as they arrived, having organised a few filing cabinets and tended to a few menial projects.

In this case, Matthew was given the opportunity to write a report on media consumption, which could have very well fallen on deaf ears, but not only have Morgan Stanley paid attention, the Telegraph published the report in full.

If you spend your life bathing in online media as I do, none of the observations in the report are mindblowing. What is remarkable is that, this time, the CEO’s, directors and people in charge of company direction have listened to Matthew’s report.

It’s a chronic problem with management: The higher up you get, the more out of touch you become with the reality of your users, current and future. You think in “audience”, “viewing figures” and other amorphous blobs of numbers, you forget that you’re dealing with people, intelligent and curious and ever-changing people.

This boy’s report highlights some interesting realities.

  • Newspapers: This generation doesn’t want to pay for news. The Sun (20p) will occasionally get picked up but free papers or other means of consumption like the web or TV.
  • Directories: A dying medium, the print directory has never been used. Being Google-savvy means the teens can easily find what they want, again for free.
  • Viral/Outdoor/Guerrilla advertising: Teens welcome these unusual, exciting campaigns, so while they might shun banner ads and conventional TV ads, they enjoy guerrilla marketing, in-game ads and quirky ads that don’t tell the full story.
  • Music: Again, free and digital are preferred. Music that is accessible offline is also preferred, so the streaming model may not be right for them.
  • Mobile: Pay as you go, reasonably priced devices are topping this market. iPhones are nowhere to be seen due to cost and likelihood that the teens will lose them before the contract is up.
  • Games consoles: Surprisingly in this teen’s research, only a third of the teens had games consoles at home, with 50% owning Nintendo’s Wii console, 40% an XBox and a measly 10% with PS3’s, Sony’s prohibitively expensive console.
  • Social networks: Less surprisingly, Facebook is the clear winner in terms of favourite way to spend time online. Twitter doesn’t ring true with these teens, probably due to the time it takes to get to a stage where the service feels gratifying, versus Facebook that excites as soon as a friend or two are added.

For some unknown reason (slow news week?), this report got far beyond the teen’s direct summer manager and was truly acknowledged by City bosses.

While I think many of the observations don’t necessarily reflect the rest of Britain’s teens’ reality, it was a great read: Uninhibited, honest words, without the usual adult filter that causes us to speak in much less absolute terms. I think we should all try to see the world through a 15 year old’s eyes every so often, we’d notice amazing things.

Ofcom says yes on more TV ads

I’m disgusted to find out that Ofcom is about to allow more advertising on commercial television channels in the UK. Somehow, in response to people using more personal video recorders like Sky Plus, Ofcom’s been fooled in believing that the answer is to slap on some more ad minutes into every show.

The geekier masses have migrated towards online sources for entertainment, and I’ve got a feeling that if UK television is heading the same way as American shows, crammed with obnoxious and imposing ads, more Brits will start relying on Joost, Bittorrent, iTunes podcasts and other services.

The advertising industry is so sick, all the way to the core, I don’t think it’ll ever recover. If you agree that this new suggested ruling, allowing more ad breaks, should be stopped, please let your comments be heard by Ofcom, do it now, and pass it on to others around you!

Links of the week: Media, marketing & brand in today's world

In the past few days, I’ve read some genuinely interesting articles which I’ve been meaning to blog, but to avoid stale blog entries in my drafts, I’ll just share the links and let you read on.

Want more? Why not subscribe to my Shared Items in Google Reader?

Do promotions, coupons and incentive programs have any value on mobile?

[Crossposted from the Taptu blog]

Sitting in my parents’ living room in Canada, I’ve seen just how much unrequested mail they receive, flyers from supermarkets and furniture shops to clothing and hardware stores. Junkmail and couponsEach one is filled with “50% off” claims and coupons. It’s a quaint tradition that is now being shoehorned into new technologies like mobile.

Mike writes about it saying that marketers tend to think of the mobile as a fantastic advertising medium, “always on, highly person, uniquely identifiable users”. That much is true, isn’t it?

“So I end up reading about things that the folks in the industry generally tend to term “The Starbucks Example”. It’s the example where a service could somehow figure out you’re near a Starbucks (whether it be location based services or some kind of near field communication system like Bluetooth) and push you a coupon (”RIGHT THEN!”) for 25 cents off your latte. […] How often do I really want 25 cents off my latte? Is it really worth all the other junk I get in return for it?”

While maybe I’m more of a sucker for Starbucks than Mike may be, in theory, I can quite comfortably see a Bluetoothed voucher for 25p off a latte cause me to detour towards the overpriced coffee store on the way to my destination. However, it’s an extremely slippery slope, and encouraging Bluetooth marketing exercises would probably result in a heavy influx of untargetted marketing messages to my phone, which I definitely would not welcome.

Coming from an email marketing background, I know quite how poorly some “marketers” can choose to understand data protection and user privacy, giving themselves artistic license over what “opt-in” means. Carlo also echo’ed my suspicion that too often, bluespamming is so untargetted that it gets a very poor conversion. So let’s scrap Bluetooth marketing!

An unprompted SMS is even more invasive than Bluetooth marketing, since it can disturb me during a much needed holiday nap, so that’s out too.

This leaves us with user-initiated promotion. This is like the mobile equivalent of double opt-in in email marketing – Far tougher to achieve user participation but cream of the crop conversion rates as a result, since you’re only reaching those who are actively showing interest. The best example I can think of for this is Orange Wednesdays, a promotion that’s been running successfully for over 3 years, launched by Orange and Flytxt in the UK. Orange customers get a 2 for 1 discount on movie tickets on Wednesday nights, feeling they’re getting a great deal at 50% the usual ticket price, while cinemas get a fresh influx of visitors in an age where the big screen is suffering from lower footfall every year. Brilliant deal!

Using a word which needs to be texted to a shortcode is a reasonably low-effort option for the mass market, while QR codes scanning is only a suitable solution if uber-nerds are the target market. Ask anyone else what that stamp-sized black and white garble means and you’ll get an uninterested shrug.

The bottom line is that it’s got to be simple and non-intrusive, something that not all marketers can achieve successfully!

What are some of the best mobile marketing campaigns you’ve seen? What’s the wildest ideas you’d like to see using mobiles? At what point is a discount, a promotion or an incentive good enough that it should be allowed to interrupt our life?

Asda makes cooking fish easier

Over the past few years, I’ve written quite a few posts about my amazement at many people’s fear of cooking unknown foods, resulting in Britain households cooking on average 4 meals each.

But while watching Hell’s Kitchen (the Marco Pierre White version, not the Gordon Ramsay one), which is a worthless show by the way, I saw an interesting advert by Asda which got me thinking.

Fish is a type of food many people have issues with. It’s wet. It’s slimey. It looks at you funny with its beady eyes. It can smell funny sometimes. So Asda found a low-cost solution for that problem.

They simply put the fish in a sealed bag which can be put straight into the oven, but also add a few bits of herbs and some lemon. This means a non-foodie can easily get a lovely steamed-in-the-bag meal without the hassle of touching fish.

Asda didn’t need to reinvent cooking or teach anyone to cook. Simply remarkable. Information Revolution campaign

Since’s good old Jeeves was fired a few months ago, it’s been clear that something was brewing behind closed doors and that a great relaunch was bound to happen soon.

It’s now happened. A viral, out-of-the-box, really groundbreaking campaign about an information revolution. At least, that’s how it sounded back in the boardroom where the ideas took shape. Information Revolution campaignIn reality, it’s one of the most blatant cases of astroturfing I’ve seen in the past few years. It presents itself as some sort of underground social movement, shrouded in mystery. [Disclaimer: Keeping in mind that I don’t live in London and my exposure to the campaign is limited to the banners on blogs I read, and these pictures snapped on the street and on the tube by some Londoners.]

The Wall Street Journal weighs in:

The online discussion has been dominated by people complaining they’ve been misled. “I thought this may be an informative Web site about how information is used on the Internet,” said one posting last week. “Instead I discover it’s just a cheap ploy for an inferior search engine.” The six-week campaign is designed to lift’s profile in the U.K., where it trails Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. The network, a unit of New York’s IAC/InterActiveCorp, was used for 4.3% of all Internet searches in the U.K. in January, according to comScore Networks Inc.

Fallon says it expected some criticism but felt there was little to lose, because Google is so much bigger. [via Search Engine Land]

Support for the campaign has been scarce so far. The campaign has been called a “load of drivel” and the agency producing it “cynical, manipulative hacks”. Some go as far as saying that expected things to turn sour, figuring that bad publicity is better than no publicity at all.

Not so sure about that. If all it leads to is a couple of attempts at using, when the user is already in a mindframe where they feel betrayed and bullsh***ed by the company in question, the likelihood of this user leaving with a positive, “yes, I think I’ll use them again” attitude is somewhere between unlikely and simply laughable.

Time will tell whether this campaign yields any positive visibility for, but at the moment, it’s a bit on the ugly side… A bit of a shame, but really, if felt that the right way to spark new interest in its search engine was to be deceitful and lie to its users, then it’s getting what it deserves!

[Cross posted from Focus on Them]