I’d forgotten how inspiring great media guys can be.
How creative the best ones are.
How they really get predatory thinking.
Mike Yershon was the media director all the creatives respected.
Because Mike broke the rules.
He looked to see what everyone else was doing.
So he could do the opposite.
Mike knew the opportunity was always in standing out from the herd.
And to do that, you had to know what the herd was doing.
Creatives respected Mike because he made their ads look better.
He made sure everyone saw them.
In these days of media independents, we don’t think of it as creative.
We just think of it as numbers.
Mike wasn’t like that, he was media director of CDP when I was a junior writer at BMP.

We used to watch Mike’s agency picking up new business faster than anyone else.
But they never pitched.
Because by the time the clients got there, they were already convinced they wanted to give CDP their account.
They’d seen all the campaigns, the work was famous and visible.
Clients wanted their work to be as famous as that.
What they didn’t realise was that Mike had bought most of the 48 sheet poster sites within half a mile radius of CDP.
Then he’d put all CDP’s posters up on them.
So that any new business client visiting the agency had already been exposed to all their work by the time they got there.
Mike used the streets all around CDP as the agency’s showcase.
Clients didn’t know that.
They just thought “I’ve seen all these ads, they’re famous. I want this agency to make me as famous as that.”
So they gave CDP their account.
The best media guys get predatory thinking.
And, as one of the very best, Mike understood it more than most.
All media departments would get the upcoming TV schedules so they knew what programmes they were booking into.
That’s what everyone did.
So Mike did that.
But he also did the opposite.
He got the TV schedules for the BBC channels.
Why did he bother with that, you couldn’t even run advertising on the BBC channels?
But Mike wasn’t just judging when and where the ads were running, but what was running on the other side at the same time.
It often meant expensive spots weren’t worth the price.
Because people would be switching over to BBC at that point.
So Mike wouldn’t waste his client’s money on those spots.
It also meant Mike could spot the great value on some really cheap spots no one else wanted.
Because people would be switching away from BBC at that time.
Right into the cheaper ad spots.
So those spots were worth much more than they cost.
Mike knew more about what people were going to be doing than the people running the commercial channels did.
With predatory thinking, Mike was getting more bang from every buck.
Because he bothered to find out things the others didn’t.
So he could see value where they couldn’t.
Mike understood what predatory thinking is really about.
Context controls everything.
So control context and you control everything.
But of course that takes a bit more effort.
And that’s too much like hard work for most people.
So most people don’t bother.

Which is good news for predatory thinkers like Mike.

  • Liam Tate

    Awesome post.

    A few years ago Barclaycard/Dare Digital/YouTube held an online film competition to extend their ‘Waterslide’ TV ad.
    The brief was to make a video featuring a waterslide, that was all.
    No branding necessary(!), just feature a waterslide.
    Whoever got the most votes for their video would win £10,000.

    Being the film maker types we are, we asked ourselves two questions:
    1) What would make us (and thus a mass audience similar to us) watch a random film on YouTube?
    2) If we did get an audiences attention, what then would motivate them to vote for us ?

    We decided we had to make something that went beyond just waterslides, something that anyone could ‘get’ and enjoy without having to understand anything about the competition. Thus the overall concept had to have some kind of existing audience who we could send the film to, who might share it with friends/followers/bloggers etc. And the answer to motivating people to vote? Make something great 😀

    This is the film we ended up making, “8-BIT Waterslide in REAL LIFE!”

    Over a two week period people voted for their favorite.
    We where very lucky, we won.
    It’s probably because we understood the context from the beginning.
    Testament to that, the film has since gone on to amass over half a million views and has been played at film festivals and on TV channels around the world.

    (By extension, Barclaycard/Dare Digital/YouTube also knew the context: put on a film making competition and content creators will come… )

    Also, I do wonder, if branding had been a brief requirement whether the film would have had as much success (for us at least). By leaving the branding for
    when people came to vote (a dedicated webpage), did that allow the video to go viral and thus draw in a larger audience than if it had been all BRAND BRAND BRAND ?

  • Dave Trott

    Really lovely piece of animation, Liam.
    Well done.

    • Liam Tate

      Thanks Dave :)

  • patrick morrison

    The most predatory piece of traditional media i came across recently is for Bet 365

    They have locked out all of the big bookmakers from live football by buying the entire allocation of airtime that betting brands can get their hands on in the breaks, indefinitely 

    Ouch Ladbrokes Ouch William Hill Ouch the rest of ye gambling fraternity Ouch pain every week, every break. Forever ouch!

    Its a coup: as betting gets closer and closer “into the game” via mobile
    Its a coup: football is the lead sport in terms of coverage of regular sports gamblers
    Its a coup: the first break and every live break of the key games
    Its a coup: every week in the season
    Its a coup :ownership/competitive advantage/differentiation

    The place where the “perfect context” and a critical chunk of the target audience simultaneously convene is a blindspot for industry media research ….. 

    …..and the increasingly commoditised traded media passes over these opportunities.  

    I think these media moments are still where brands can ‘edge up’ are few and far between but when you nail them, wow what a focal point it can bring

    In their absence you can make these moments yourself : in time/place or space ….emulating their attributes/pulling power via the digital approach

    These moments are surely abundant in the world of search, or digital dayparts, instant digital stuff in physical places,  right on the moment…..

    Thanks for remembering the Yershon way, its re-inspiring. 

    Better get back to the day job.  

    • Dave Trott

      Well spotted Patrick.
      That’s exactly how predatory media works.

Campaign Jobs