On Episode 2 of the Paper Planes Podcast Simon chats to Peter Roper, Former Editor of Marketing Mag.

Show Notes

The Spin Cycle team also discuss the latest news from the world of marketing including McGuigan Wines’ new campaign, the boo boo from Dove and how you can’t use ‘love’ as an ingredient in your granola.

You can contact Peter Roper on LinkedIn.


Simon Dell: My guest today is Peter Roper. He is the former editor, assistant editor, and associate publisher for Niche Media with Marketing Magazine, and he’s been doing that for about 7 or 8 years. Prior to that, he was actually a teacher in Nanjing University in China. So, I’m going to ask him a little bit about that as well, but welcome Peter.

Peter Roper: Thanks, Simon. Great to be here.

Simon Dell: How are things with you there?

Peter Roper: Good, thank you.

Simon Dell: You’ve got a couple of weeks off, haven’t you? 

Peter Roper: I do, yeah. That’s right.

Simon Dell: You left Niche Media.

Peter Roper: Yeah, former editor and associate publisher of Marketing Magazine until very recently. But as of about 10 days ago, I am now unemployed, or as I like to say, on sabbatical. So yeah, taking it very easy, but yeah.

Simon Dell: It’s unemployed to everyone else. It’s on sabbatical to your wife, isn’t it?

Peter Roper: That’s right, yeah. So, I’m actually meant to be writing a book or something, I don’t know?

Simon Dell: Okay. Well, you tell us a little bit more about that in a minute. I think the first question I want to ask you is how you got yourself to China. What took you to China and what were you doing there?

Peter Roper: That’s a good question. I’m not sure what I was thinking at the time. But basically, I had finished my undergraduate degree and the immediate job prospects of someone who majors in psychology and doesn’t do honors, and masters, and all that aren’t that great in something psychology-related. So, I sort of took a gap year that turned into almost 3 years basically teaching college students English or trying to improve their English because our college Chinese students already have a pretty good basic ground in English. But yeah, basically, the universities and colleges over there hire native speakers to help students with their listening, and pronunciation, and just cultural stuff as well.

Simon Dell: How is your Chinese now?

Peter Roper: It’s probably not as good as it should be after a few years there, it’s I wouldn’t say conversational. I can live. I can survive if I have to and I can order chicken versus the beef or whatever it is. Yeah, that’s enough. But working there actually as a foreign English teacher, all your classes, all your work is actually English and no one there wants to… Like, with the students, they don’t want to talk to you in Chinese because it’s your job to talk to them in English. But it should be a bit better, I think.

Simon Dell: How did you find the system over there compared to… And certainly for marketing graduates, because obviously as a population size, they must be throwing out hundreds of thousands of marketing graduates every year versus what perhaps Australia is generating. What might be the one big difference that you saw in the education system over there that you see here?

Peter Roper: I mean, this was before I got into marketing so I can’t sort of talk to the marketing aspect so much other than that sort of, yeah, that’s, as you described, generally how it works. But you know, they’ve got not millions but many, many times more businesses and things than we have here, too. So, it kind of worked proportionately. But in terms of the education system, even in university, it’s still very much… They don’t teach a lot around learning how to think, and how to be creative, and how to problem solve. It’s very much rote learning for whatever it may be.

And actually, the high school system is gruelling over there. 12 hour day, 6 days a week throughout all of high school, and then they get to college or university and it’s like a holiday. Well, I mean, for some, if they treat it as that, it might be frustrating for a teacher. But yeah, the intensity of the high school system sounds insane to me. I mean, I can’t imagine doing it. I did enough high school myself, Didn’t mind university so much, but yeah. The big difference is probably that creativity and learning about free thinking, but that all ties into the whole entire culture, and also governance of the country, and how that all works. Yeah. That’s a big topic.

Simon Dell: So, you got back to Australia in 2010, 2011. How did you arrive at Marketing Magazine and what was it like? I think one of the questions I obviously really wanted to ask you is that you’ve gone through this, I call it, sort of a magazine armageddon, a print media armageddon that sort of occurred in the last 10 years. That must’ve been an interesting time to move into print media and especially in a marketing print media as well.

Peter Roper: Absolutely. How I got into it was I started studying… It was a Master of Commerce. I wanted to major in marketing but then sort of took some classes in advertising and communications, made some friends in there, and basically I ended up switching over to a Master of Communications in Advertising. But during that, I met a good friend who worked at Niche Media, at Marketing Magazine. She knew I was looking for a job and said, “Hey, the company’s looking for a receptionist.” And the reception will often move on to something else in the business, so I actually got a job as a receptionist.

Simon Dell: I can’t see you as a receptionist.

Peter Roper: No one could either. That was probably one of the worst things in my life.. So, I did that for six months. But during that time, I was finishing some uni assignments as well, but I did a little bit of writing for the Market Mag team there because I had a bit of spare time. It’s not non-stop as a receptionist in a small business. Well, it wasn’t for me. I was probably not a person you should ask about how to do it properly, but yeah, it just… After about six months and they were looking for someone to come on as a writer and online assistant editor. They were nice enough to hire me.

Simon Dell: Right, okay. And so, back to the sort of second part of that question: What was the feeling when you are sort of amongst this print media armageddon that you walked into?

Peter Roper: The print armageddon, and that’s a weird word, but it’s a very slow burning armageddon. It’s probably 15 years, well, the start of it maybe around 20 years old and it’s been like a… and I’m talking more generally about the industry, a tsunami happening but at glacial speeds, but without the major players, still having time to react the right way, if that makes sense. It’s happened so slowly but the major players have handled it very badly probably the whole way long.

Simon Dell: It’s like a car crash that you can see coming towards you and you’re just standing, staring at the headlights, yeah.

Peter Roper: Yeah, like during a light stop. But I should say in magazines, and especially in B2B publishing or at least in publications like Marketing Mag and the others that we do at Niche Media, or that they do now, is that they’ve been quite well-sheltered from the effects that general daily newspapers have experienced. I mean, the main reason for that is that a piece of paper delivered every day with the news from yesterday has not been the most efficient way to get your news for a very long time.

So, the difference being with Marketing Magazine is we haven’t been trying to do news for a very long time and there’s still a good enough portion of our audience that liked and still does like reading in print. The content is meant to be evergreen or at least relevant for quite a long time.

Simon Dell: Did you find that there was still some things that you had to do to protect that readership? I mean, it’s a great point that you’re not the next day’s news, but was there still some evolutionary things that you needed to change?

Peter Roper: That is not the problem and wasn’t the problem. The readership side of things has never been where the money comes from. It’s been a bit of the money and it’s sort of like the money you make from selling copies of magazines might cover the printing costs, for example, and distribution costs through subscription, through selling it through newsagents. But the bulk of the money, and this is where the businesses like Niche have been hit really hard, is that print advertising has been in decline. 

And that’s where the vast majority of revenue has been for 40 years, is in print advertising. So, that’s what’s declined over the last 10 years, 15 years, whereas the demand for online advertising has basically did the invert point. The problem with that is you do theoretically have unlimited or a lot more inventory you can sell, but the actual prices and margins on online advertising, or whether that’s advertising or content or whatever it is are a lot lower than they were in print. So, you could have the same pool of clients with the same budgets but while also because of fragmentation you’re getting less of that.

Because one page in a print magazine might be a few thousand dollars, to make up for that, you’re actually doing a lot more work online in an online sense. That’s the challenge at the business level.

Simon Dell: What do you think the future holds for the print media industry? Do you think we’re going to see the end of printed newspapers? Do you think we’ve reached the bottom of that cycle now and that potentially it’s just going to flatline or we’re going to see a regrowth of that kind of information?

And I ask that because interestingly, I’ve seen in the past two or three months a few media, online media outlets, start to send out emails with what I would probably call comprehensive emails. So, they’re really in depth, single emails about one particular time. They’re long-form articles, essentially, in an email. And QZ.com do one that I get every few days. LinkedIn have started sending them out and things like that, and I wonder if you think there’s a turning point. What happens in the next 5 to 10 years?

Peter Roper: Yeah. I mean, I think there’s still a place for print. Now, that type of newsletter I think is going to be become more popular. Having said that, that type of newsletter has been around for a very long time. Now, email’s been around for a very long time, and that’s another thing that people talk about the death of with every new social network or whatever that comes along, but email is not going anywhere.

Print, eventually yes. I think for newspapers, definitely, and it won’t be too long before they do what they’ve been saying and cut down to just weekend editions, for example. For Marketing Magazine, I always saw it having a place. Even if it wasn’t… I mean basically, it had become rather than being the centre of the business model, it had become one of the arms of the business model, the print magazine.

And so that, even beyond just revenue, it was important in other ways such as branding about our own brand for example, having that. Who knows? I’m not there anymore so I’m not going to put my two cents into discussions anymore, but there was never serious discussions about ending it while I was there. I’m not… I don’t know illusions that one day it won’t end but I’m sure it will happen at some point.

Simon Dell: I think your point there is that that’s the real key one, was where you said it becomes part of a suite of brands instead of it being the cornerstone and the main revenue generator, it becomes one of a few different channels of revenue generation. 

Peter Roper: Yeah, exactly, and that’s the evolution that media brands have… The last decade or two, they had some realizations and started to think like marketers, basically and gone, “We’ve got a brand and there’s a print publication attached to it. There’s an online publication, but they can be events.” And events publishers is where the money is these days. So, it’s the events subsidizing the other things rather than, say, the print as it was 10 years ago, print subsidizing a website for example.

Simon Dell: I think the point that you’ve just made there is that publishers need to act more like brands. And in the last 5 to 10 years, you’ve seen brands trying to act more like publishers. And there’s this kind of point where they all meet in the middle and suddenly realize that they’re all doing the same thing now. So, it’s an interesting shift from both ends of the demographic.

Peter Roper: It is. And I mean, in terms of trends, we’ll definitely see more and more from brand publishing. Like, it is a lot — And so, the after half of my job, by the way, over the last couple of years was custom publishing or content marketing. And so, for brands like Bank of Melbourne, so that’s in Victoria obviously so you wouldn’t have seen it anywhere else, but they’ve done a print publication with us for the last couple of years, last few years, actually, for small businesses, inspiring stories from around Victoria in small business and that sort of thing, very much not at all advertising or advertorial even.

They control the advertising, so they had ads in the magazine, but it looked like they didn’t even… There’s my logo on the cover. They were very, very tasteful about it because it has to fit their brand. But I mean, it depends on the brands you’re talking about, but I think they’re moving more of that not necessarily only in print but the luxury brands or at least the high end brands print will be still a powerful tool.

Simon Dell: I actually would challenge that as well because I just finished a job a week ago with a client that was a very small business of five to six employees. The final thing I did working with them was to help them produce an eight-page magazine. And they got a copywriter in who had produced four or five good quality articles around their industry. They’ve gone and got a graphic designer, and the aim was to produce a thousand of these that they would send out to existing clients, potential clients, so on and so forth.

And interestingly, the cost to produce that wasn’t huge. They felt that that was good ROI to, rather than keep ringing up people or knocking on people’s doors, that sending them a magazine was going to interrupt them or make them think about ordering from them better than hassling them on email or hassling them on a phone. So, not that they wouldn’t hassle them on the phone and hassle them on email as well, but it was that point of difference, I felt. So, I think custom publication is an opportunity for every business if they’ve got a budget, and they can write, and that sort of thing.

Peter Roper: I mean, the challenge is always, and this is the main objection, is how do we know what it’s doing and if it’s worth the money? And that’s where digital has hurt the print channels in marketing in general over the last little while because it’s supposedly measurable, but it’s arguable. You’re measuring how it’s going, but are you measuring the effects, and last click, and attribution and all of that? But it has sort of educated marketers and business people, some of them, to a point where they sort of know to ask about that but don’t really understand it.

Now, I can’t tell you how to measure how your print publication’s going to go because it depends on how you’re measuring everything else, and what you’re trying to do, and all of that. It is very hard but yeah, it does work, it’s just hard to show you how.

Simon Dell: I think you have to be really focused on it. I think you have to believe in the medium and believe that people are going to read it. And certainly in the industry that I was dealing with, it was a very closed industry. Once they got in that industry, they stayed in that industry for a long time. So, certainly, the owner of this business felt that that would be well received. I want to move on to a question because I think the thing that sort of I really wanted to talk to you about is that you… With your time at Marketing Magazine, you’ve seen a lot of stuff. You’ve seen some good campaigns, you see some bad campaigns, and you’ve probably seen a hell of a lot of mediocre campaigns in the middle of them.

I wanted to get some of your favourites. I want to just get an idea of some of your favourites. But before you do that, we had a conversation in the earlier part of this show about the recent Dove campaign. I’m sure you would’ve seen it.

Peter Roper: The Facebook photo?

Simon Dell: Yeah, the rotating GIF with the black woman taking her shirt off and turning into a white woman. I just wanted to get your feeling because we certainly felt, or at least some of the people I’ve spoken to, felt that was actually a deliberate attempt for Dove to poke the hornet’s nest of social media in order to get a reaction. 

Peter Roper: Yeah. It could well be. I mean, by this point, I’m fairly cynical. It could well be deliberate. I mean, I don’t believe… I mean, a company like Dove, or Unilever, are part of a conglomerate, there’s a lot of moving parts to that, in agencies and stuff, so it’s interesting what they can get away with because there’s plausible deniability if you’re not directly involved in this. They will say it’s the social media team that runs this, there’s a content team, or there’s an agency, or whatever it is. At the same time, I don’t believe that a business like that doesn’t have the checks and balances and the marketing governance frameworks in place for that stuff to happen.

Having said that, it’s not the first time, I don’t think the first time even for Dove, and I can’t remember. But you know, are they on purpose? It’s hard to say. I do genuinely feel people in agencies and close to brands get so close to them that they do get into a little bubble and can really misread. They’re out of touch, basically.

Simon Dell: Out of touch with this public sentiment in that kind of area, yeah.

Peter Roper: With how people might react to it.

Simon Dell: I’ll tell you, up until about an hour ago, I thought it was just… I just generally thought it was a bad call on Dove’s part. And like you said, perhaps they got stuck in this bubble. And then I saw an interview with the black girl…

Peter Roper: I saw an article by her or something.

Simon Dell: And saw the interview on the BBC’s website, and I’ll try and link it into the show notes here so people can see it. That felt very staged. At that point, I kind of went, the timing of all of this… I mean, Dove had released it, and apologized. And if I were Dove, I would then forget it ever happened and move on.

Peter Roper: Well, that’s the normal corporate response to things, it’s silence or limited statement and then wait a little while. But yeah, you’re right.

Simon Dell: To then repoke the hornet’s nest again with that video of her talking about how it wasn’t an issue for her, the cynicism in me kind of came to the surface and went, “Oh, this is all staged.” 

Peter Roper: I wouldn’t be surprised.

Simon Dell: So, back to the first of that question then, what brands have you admired over your time at Niche? What have you looked at and just gone, “Wow, that’s a good activation” or “That’s a good campaign” or “They’re doing that really well”, just things that have kind of made you feel that sort of warm and fuzziness inside.

Peter Roper: Warm and fuzziness on a marketing campaign?

Simon Dell: If you can. I was going to say if you can feel warm and fuzziness towards advertising and marketing.

Peter Roper: Yeah… I wouldn’t phrase it like warm and fuzziness but…

Simon Dell: We’ll think of something else.

Peter Roper: Yeah. Anyway, we’ll dub this later, the words. I don’t know, it’s all the big ones that… And to be honest, I was thinking about this the other day, and trying to think in… I have a pretty bad memory, incompetent memory of the things, but I mean, it’s all a big thing that stand out to me, that you know, standing out that reached the mainstream press so everyone knows about them. It’s things like…

I mean, I was really impressed, and this isn’t — not at all an intelligent thing to say after so many years, but Share a Coke being developed in Australia by the Australian Coca-Cola marketing team and then doing so well it got picked up around the world.

Simon Dell: That was the one where people’s names were on the cans?

Peter Roper: Yeah. In the first round, it was like mate, or dad, or all of that sort of stuff and then people’s names. But we ran a case study on that after it had happened in Australia, and it probably still is now one of the highest read articles on our website every month to this day. That was in 2012 that we published that, and so they would’ve run in 2011 or summer of 2011, 2012, maybe.

Simon Dell: Just from my point of view, simplicity was the best thing about it. There was no overly complicated media or creative, it was print some people’s names on the cans, on the bottles.

Peter Roper: Yeah, and using your own channel of distribution. I mean, obviously, there’s a lot of advertising around it, but yeah, it tied in really well. And yeah, like you said, a really simple campaign. But I mean, the Australian developed angle was really nice too, because so much, well, to international brands here or local marketing teams working for international brands, they don’t get to come up with stuff often. A lot of it’s just cut and paste work with what HQ has done in the key market, or the home market, or whatever other market. So yeah, so that was really nice, being a Melbourne guy, Dumb Ways to Die, just amazing how that took off around the world. I mean, I don’t. It just shows the power of a catchy jingle and among other things.

Simon Dell: Tell us more about that because a lot of people may not have seen that. So, give us a snapshot of that campaign.

Peter Roper: Dumb Ways to Die was by the agency, it was McCann Melbourne, but for Metro Trains Melbourne, so basically, the Metro train line down here, and it’s basically a railway safety commercial. It’s more of a brand platform because it’s been going on for years and years. It’s about probably four years old now and I think it was always intended to be at least five years. I’m not going to sing it. You can link to the videos and stuff.

Simon Dell: I won’t ask you to sing it, yeah.

Peter Roper: But yeah, but just a really catchy jingle and cartoons. Basically, the argument’s making light of stupid people getting hit by trains. That was the point of it, really, and that’s probably partly why it worked so well. People don’t need another authoritative black and white grainy video with the Grim Reaper voiceover telling them to be safe around trains.

Simon Dell: I think the Kiwis did a good one, didn’t they? I just always remember Ghost Chips where they were talking about…

Peter Roper: Ghost Chips, yeah, drunk driving.

Simon Dell: Yeah, they were using comedy in the vein of that age demographic to reach out to them rather than the shock tactics.

Peter Roper: Yeah, absolutely. And in Victoria, I mean, I’m not 100% sure about this, but the TAC, the road safety bureau since the ’80s has basically done so much shock tactic work in every TV ad it puts out since the ’80s, and I think it was the first in Australia to go that far and actually make it really, really quite distressing type TV ads. But it’s basically, you can’t keep doing that. You have to one up yourself every time or it stops working with shock tactics. And so, they’ve been doing that for 30 years. In Victoria at least, that’s what I can speak to, is a radical departure from that by Dumb Ways to Die. It was probably the right move.

It’s become a phenomenon. I think the characters ended up getting licensed by a city railway in the US for them to use. There’s plush toys, app games. It’s now become the most awarded campaign over globally in Cannes, at least, ever, out of everything in the world, which is insane. The three questions to ask, now that it’s approaching it’s run of five years, has it worked? I don’t know the data on that. I mean, railway safety awareness undoubtedly has risen, but it’ll be the numbers. I just want to know about effectiveness instead of just Adland its friends awards or not his friends but Adland awarding itself for being creative and making fun stuff, which is what it does. But it’s also that’s when, well time will tell.

Simon Dell: I was going to say, going off on a tangent like that, do you think there’s too much of that? Obviously, there were some issues two or three years ago with some of the Cannes awards going to campaigns that they’d never run.

Peter Roper: I think there is too much of it. I mean, the advert agency land is very good at, at least within its own walls, inflating itself. It’s been good to see more recently things like the FE’s bringing effectiveness back into it and the rise of FE’s has been good to see, like having to prove effectiveness beyond just creativity and whatever is important. Having said that, I mean, a lot of agencies don’t get all the data themselves. It’s confidential with the client. And so, it’s tough. In general, the advertising agency world is fun to be part of for a while, but it takes itself very seriously. I think it over inflates its own importance just a tad.

Simon Dell: That’s probably understatement of the year. Obviously, there’s a couple of great examples there of campaigns. Is there anything that you’ve seen in the years where you’ve just gone, either you’ve questioned it and just gone, “This isn’t going to work” and it has worked, or things that you’ve seen and you’ve gone, “This isn’t going to work” and you were absolutely right? What are some of the more disaster-prone brands, aside from Dove, campaigns that you’ve seen?

Peter Roper: To be honest, the rate of me looking at something and going, “What the hell is that?” or “This is not going to work” is probably 90% of the things I would see on a daily basis. I got better at realizing that I can’t just look at something and say I enjoy that and therefore it’s good. It’s the old problem with marketing and realizing your customer is not yourself usually. But yeah, and I can’t really think of any examples. But a lot, like I would look at stuff, and then we’d see stuff on a daily basis obviously, and you know, really just remembering them the next day would be a challenge 99% of the time.

Simon Dell: Yeah. There’s a lot of filler out there and a lot of agencies being paid for that filler.

Peter Roper: And it may well work, though, like for… It does the job. I mean, boring TV ads…

Simon Dell: Yeah, you look at Autotune. Was it Autotune?

Peter Roper: Oh, yeah.

Simon Dell: With the two girls in PVC.

Peter Roper: Yeah. That definitely wasn’t boring. It was very questionable in many other ways but at least it wasn’t boring.

Simon Dell: But it did what the owner of that company set out to do, which was draw attention to their business in a particular demographic and upset other demographics in the process.

Peter Roper: Absolutely. Yeah, and a lot of debate around that, talking about the reality versus the perceived shopping power of the women versus men even in industries or categories like that. But yeah, no, he came and said it had worked really well and they’re making shit loads of money, so he doesn’t care what people think. But I think that’s his attitude for it in a way.

Simon Dell: A couple of other questions I want to ask you, generally… I mean obviously, now you’re out of the publishing circle and you could potentially end up absolutely anywhere next. When you sit and look at people’s starting businesses or early stage businesses, what are some of the tips that, if you were forced to sit down with someone and give them some tips about how to run a business, or how to launch a business, or obviously more importantly how to market their business, what are the things that sort of really stuck out to you? And by that question, I mean the very basics, the first steps that people should be doing properly.

Peter Roper: I’ll preface this by saying I’m in no way qualified to give business advice. Get a second opinion on this and take this as entertainment content only, put that in very small print. But one of the things I would say, and it’s something I learned over the years of just basically being exposed to noise from hundreds of different sources every day, is that it can seem, and it does seem, extremely confusing and extremely complicated. But at the end of the day, and this is where the lesson is for anyone running or marketing a business, it all boils back to those principles of marketing.

As much as we debate the four Ps, and the seven Cs, and the 20 Ps and all of that, you can’t actually get away from the original four Ps of marketing. You can change them a bit and come up with new stuff, but it still boils down to that, I would say. And Phil Connor did say when we asked him that question. We got a video in our YouTube page where we ask him that. So, if it all sounds too much, and marketing technology and advertising technology especially has done itself no service with the amount of confusion that that industry has created, which is actually, we could get into this if you want to, but created a massive problem around transparency and shot itself in the foot a little bit.

Simon Dell: We could, but I was going to say, that’s probably another hour’s conversation later on that we might save for another day, but yeah.

Peter Roper: Yeah, because agencies as well have been part of that. But yeah. I mean, what was I trying to say? When it all seems really complex, it’s actually not. You’re never going to stop having to create a decent product or service and I think that’s the first place you focus, because if you get that right, then the other things become a whole lot easier. But in terms of promotion, you basically start with one thing and then — its number one in your list or three things depending on how big the business is and how much money you’ve got to play with, and if you’ve got someone you can put on at full time and all of that. But simplicity, my overriding philosophy to basically everything is simplicity, keeping it simple.

Simon Dell: I’ve spoken to so many businesses of all shapes and sizes in the last 8 to 10 years. The first question I always ask them is, “What do you want to achieve?” And it’s amazing that 90% of them have no comprehension of at least where they’re going. So, trying to build a strategic map for them when they don’t know where they’re going is near to impossible.

Peter Roper: And one way simplicity, if you act really — stick to that plays out, is with everything you do, you pick one thing. If your business goal is pick one thing, every goal you add to something, it makes it more than twice as hard and waters it down, so yeah. And I mean, the other thing I’d say is around the segmentation thing which sort of comes back to the Autotune example but it doesn’t have to be exactly like that. You got to pick your target and who cares what other people say? I mean, that doesn’t mean making the other people angry like in some examples, it just means if they don’t raise an eyebrow, that doesn’t matter. Everyone likes vanilla but they never choose vanilla if there’s chocolate available.

Simon Dell: I think Apple do that extremely well, that they’ve got a very key understanding of who their target market are and they just go after them. Not to the point where they’re upsetting everybody else, but there’s a target market that will pay $1,000 for an iPhone and that’s their market.

Peter Roper: Yeah. And there’s a brand, Vinomofo, an online wine retailer that’s not doing anything majorly different but the way they’ve branded themselves for the younger audience and the language they use, they’re just nailing it. 

Simon Dell: Yeah. Well, that sort of leads me to my last few questions. What are some of the brands that you like? And I know you’ve talked about some case studies and things like that, but what’s something you buy all the time because you like the brand, or something that you drive? And I’m putting you on the spot here, or even clothing companies, or retail outlets. Is there anything that you just go, “I’m always going to…” I mean, obviously, I’ve mentioned Apple because sitting here with a…

Peter Roper: I mean, Apple’s one. I’m an Apple user. I haven’t done the self-analysis to decide whether I do it just for the brand or whatever. I mean, once they’ve got you, it becomes a barrier to change type of equation, for you to stick with what you know. But funnily enough, in Britain clothing and stuff, I’m not anti-brands but I’m not into logos. It’s just a personal choice. I’m not into logos on T-shirts or on anything, actually. I do a lot of shopping in ASOS and TOPMAN and stuff like that where it’s sort of not unbranded but branding is not heavy. I own a lot of books, and looking at the Penguin Classics, orange and white or orange and green design in their covers is always excellent. I can stare at that.

Simon Dell: That’s a classic brand, actually. That’s one that you gravitate towards.

Peter Roper: From my time at Marketing Mag, they did a profile on Penguin. The cover of the mag was the orange and green stripes, bands across the cover. I’m actually more for exploring.

Simon Dell: Do you gravitate to a particular car? Like, if you go and get a job next week that says you can have whatever car you like, is there..?

Peter Roper: Oh, whatever car I like? That changes things because that’s not my normal criteria. I don’t drive, or not much anyway. My wife drives, and so we have a Ford. I’m not sure why but possibly this is related. My dad’s always had Fords so it’s possibly a family thing. But yeah, no. In terms of other stuff, I’m more of an explorer. If I find something of good quality, I’m sort of thinking in the clothing and household stuff these days, then I’ll stick with it, but yeah.

Simon Dell: Final question for you which is… I’ll give it to you as a two-part question. What’s next for Peter Roper, and if a potential employer happens to be listening to this, what’s next for you? And the second question part of that is, what’s next for marketing? With things like AI, and voice technology, and all of those kinds of bits, what do you see happening in the next 5 to 10 years? 

Peter Roper: First part, for me, the answer is I don’t know and that was deliberate. I’d like to take some time off, but I might be in publishing again or possibly an in-house role. But going back to brands I like, it’d have to be in a business that I can get passionate about or am passionate about. So, whether it’s the values of the brand or in an industry that I want to move into, with my food and wine or something, whether that’s in publishing, or in marketing, or in-house, or all of that, or social enterprise.

I’m getting into reading a lot and learning a lot more about things like service design and things like that at the moment. I’m not doing nothing while I’m unemployed. I’m keeping the brain taking over, so that includes sharing for conversations like this, so thank you. I’m not quite a vegetable yet after two weeks at home. The second part of your question around marketing… And this does hark back to what I said around the business advice, is that everything boils back. During my time, even in the six years or seven years I was there, and you see how…

You start to see the patents. And so, right now, it’s AI and virtual reality. 60 years ago, it was… I mean, we’re still talking about social media at that sort of buzz level that AI is now. Similarly with things like marketing technology and advertising technology, even though they’re not new, the whole advertising technology has changed a lot, programmatic becoming the norm.

But you replace sort of those words and you just sort of see the pattern every x number of months or x number of years. Soon, we’ll stop talking about AI and we’ll probably never even mention AI unless you’re talking about data analysis fields and things like that where it’ll just be virtual assistants and all of that, so that would become the norm. I mean, six or seven years ago, we were still talking about digital as a separate thing. We realized this isn’t really going to be a thing for much longer. I mean, that’s probably how it works and that is how publishing works. You milk the hot topics while you can to create content.

But yeah, we were back then talking about massive structural changes to marketing and I think we overestimated the short-term potential of technologies to change how we did things. We underestimated long-term but in short-term we overestimated. So I mean, it’s going to be… Well, I can safely put $10 in the next 10 years, the marketer’s job is not going to change fundamentally, just as it hasn’t over the last 40 years. It’s still about delivering value. And hopefully what I do see changing is the type of value that marketing delivers. That’s as opposed to broadcaster advertising. We’ve seen it with the evolution of content marketing where that’s actually delivering useful stuff when it’s done well, delivering useful stuff to customers, but it’s marketing.

And with one of the columnists in marketing, Sergio Brodsky, this is a hot topic for him, and I encourage people to read what he’s written around it, but around brand utility where it sort of takes delivering value from not just content but has utility, but you know, the sky’s the limit. What else can deliver utility? That might be public Wi-Fi or it might be private-public partnerships to service neighbourhoods in X category, that sort of thing. I hope it’s because there’s a lot of positives to that is what we’re going to see a lot more.

Simon Dell: Mate, it’s been absolutely fascinating. It’s been too long since we’ve had a conversation and all the last conversations that we’ve had are one or both of us have been drunk, so this is nice to chat where…

Peter Roper: Oh wait, you’re not right now? Oh, I am.

Simon Dell: Well, you’ve got all this time off, yeah. It’s been fantastic to talk to you, so thank you very much.

Peter Roper: People won’t know we’re doing this at like 9:00 in the morning? I shouldn’t have just said that.

Simon Dell: We’ll tell them it’s 3:00 a.m. If people want to find you, if they do want to offer you a job, where’s the best place for them to find you?

Peter Roper: LinkedIn, probably. LinkedIn’s good. I’ve actually been paying more attention to that. I used to get a lot of invitations to connect with people I’ve never even heard of, and a lot of messages as well, but now I am actually seeing who the messages are from because of my current situation, but yeah. LinkedIn’s probably the best. I mean, I’m on Twitter but I don’t use that very much.

Simon Dell: Fantastic. Once again, thank you very much to Peter Roper. It’s been a wonderful talk. Thank you for your time.

Peter Roper: I appreciate it, Simon. Thanks a lot for having me.

For more transcriptions of the Simon Dell Show click here: Marketing Podcasts

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