Thursday, December 21, 2006

The best chart. Ever.



This post by Simon sums up some of my feelings about unnecessary charts. Absolutely brilliant.

Yes, even better than the dancing.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ack! I've been tagged..

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Well, I've been tagged by Daniel Mejia over at AdStructure, so I've got to reveal 5 things you didn't already know about me. Seeing as I've already professed my love for Stoke City, I guess I'll have to tell you all some new things:
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1) Well, let's start off with something embarassing. From the age of 18 through to about 20/21, in between University holidays I worked for this company. Yes, I was a burger flipper. I'll tell you one thing; it doesn't half keep your feet on the ground working somewhere like that, much less improving your diplomacy skills. It also makes you acutely aware of the importance of being polite, as well as realising that no ban can stop people from being obese (a combination of sitting on your arse all day and eating junk food does that, a la most truckers/logistics people).
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2) I'm left handed, and as a result, think more quickly, am like 10% of the population and am generally more creative. Heh. Well, I know one thing - I think my eyebrows explain why the Latin for left is 'Sinister'. However, I can throw a frisbee with both hands, play pool/snooker righty, golf/cricket lefty and tennis lefty. How odd.
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3) My favourite sport (to play) is golf. Though Mark Twain said it was a good walk spoiled, I really love the game. Now, I know this relegates me to middle aged man territory, but only those who've never given it a chance say that. It's a sport with so many different facets to it; you could spend a lifetime learning the nuances. I don't think I could say that for many other sports.
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4) I'm always the first person on the dance floor. I don't know why this is; I'm not a show-off in any other way, and my dancing is atrocious. But still...
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5) I've met Mick Jones (aka The Clash's lead guitarist) when his new band, Carbon/Silicon played Exeter. He was, as you'd expect, an absolute legend. He's my guitar hero.
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I tag:
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All of these kind people link to me.. so.. tag! You're it!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

No fear. Or, a plea for old school Account Handlers..


As the new world order of agencies jostles for position, I think there's a real danger of overlooking those incredibly underated folk. Yes, that's right, account handers/managers/people.
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I'm not about to suggest that the Account man has somehow died, or there's no need for him/her. I think it's a bit dangerous to think like that. Nor do I believe that the new world order of agencies can afford to overlook the suit, and that somehow the planner or creative could and should have more power than the suit.
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Each discipline lacks skills the others possess; the best suits are far more charming and better with people than the average planner or creative, and likewise, planners and creatives can usually think along far different lines than the average suit. HOWEVER... too much thinking like this leads to:
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So, to avoid this... I'm not going to propose disbanding departments, allowing the most snot nosed account person to create creative work, nor saying to the most socially awkward planner to present an hour presentation to the most important client. That'd just be silly. Structures of this sort exist for a reason, and searching for new ones is liking asking 'What came first, the chicken or the egg?' (Yes, one of the presentations in the sidebar really was on a hiding to nothing).

No, instead, we've got to move away from both notions, and dare I say, back to some of the old attitudes. As Morris Hite states in his 80's book, "No agency is better than its account executives."

Damn right. These plucky youngsters are the faces of the agency. They've got to be ballsy, unafraid to have an opinion, not just cast aside as the photocopying monkey for the first year.
It's rather telling that what people held as the account man's job (having an opinion on the strategy, overseeing parts of the creative brief) back in the day, the planner has now subsumed. But surely, if the agency is being presented by these people, the AE has to be able to think strategically, and to a lesser extent, creatively?

I say this in this order because without the nous to understand just where the brand is heading, account services will become overly seduced by creativity without substance. It's all very well to admire the bright lights and flash graphics of the latest block busting TV ad, but if you don't understand WHY and can't think creatively, it's for naught.

So - Give back some responsibility to Account Handlers. Get them thinking strategically. Don't just employ those who have to 'think creatively'. One man's creativity is another man's total arse. If it's not understood, it's rather pointless. Perhaps some form of internal strategic training by the senior planners, or a required reading list? (You think I'm joking...)

Perhaps most importantly, get young Account Handlers to get the bit between their teeth. Not to be wankers, but being unfraid to interject. After all, most of these people have had the same training as the forensically minded planning department, so it's unlikely they just 'won't get it'.

And for God's sake, heed Leo Burnett's words: "Fun without sell gets nowhere but sell without fun tends to become obnoxious." No arseholes OR faceless drones, who only do administration, 10 second pack shots and colour co-ordinated dressing.

(NB: First picture stolen from Adweek)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Memes, jingles or songs that just won't go away..


Well, up until the recent Campaign IPA Excellence Diploma giveaway, and Richard's comments about them, I had no idea what a Meme was. Well, upon posting about Christmas ads, I came round to thinking about them (and yes, I know a Meme isn't just a jingle or a song, but for the purposes of this post, it will be).
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The Coke holidays ad was clearly successful because of the tune, and indeed, it's not the only ad in recent memory to use music as its selling point; look here at an example of the Halifax 'Howard' campaign from DLKW.
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But DLKW's efforts aside, very few agencies seem to want to devise songs for their ads any more - it's all low-tempo folkie stuff, obscure beats (in the case of O2) or no music at all.
I think agencies are missing a trick here; some of the most memorable ads have great tunes:
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And yes, I really did enjoy the Um-Bongo advert; it was a damn shame I couldn't find the full length version.
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More importantly though, that those songs truly stick in the head. I don't think the new Coke Christmas execution is better or worse than the Lorries one, but as it doesn't have that memorable jingle, people are less willing to readily associate it with Christmas.
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After all, all any brand wants is to be talked about, even if it is subtle and in the form of a song. As for DLKW currently doing a lot of jingle themed ads - they do tend to be parodies of existing tunes, rather than their originals. Look at how successful Sheila's Wheels have been.
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I suppose there is a massive risk element in writing songs in today's environment; there's always a concern that the brand will get a lot of negative publicity if a song is needlessly irritating. Sod it. Ads should at least be memorable, if nothing else, and songs are a valuable form of cultural capital.
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And no, not every brand or ad should do it - could you imagine a COI song on various health matters?
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Anyway, this is away from the most important point about this post. Repeat after me: Um bongo Um bongo they drink it in the Congo..

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas ads of old..


Though Stoke haven't lost yet, I thought I should return this blog to something at least vaguely ad orientated. So...Christmas ads, past and present. What makes a good Christmas ad?
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Well, let's look probably a lot of people's favourite Christmas cracker. Coke's 'Lorries':
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And I quote:
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"CHRISTMAS IS COMMING YESSSSS!!! THIS IS CHRISTMAS TO ME" and "im gutted whyd they have to take the only advert on tv that gets me christmassy away.. :( i feel scrooged".
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But why should there be this reaction? Well, let's examine the evidence. Christmas is nirvana for brands. Writ large in the landscape, it's the one time of year that, I believe, the average person wants to be away from the materialism/over the top branding of most stores and places.
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Hence, it makes sense that an ad which doesn't try to ram an all consumptive, all consuming message down people's throats. It also features a handy jingle. If we're looking for evidence of what a meme can do for people's advertising spend, look no further than this ad. Just you try singing 'Holidays are coming' at people. Either they'll think you are a Hari Krishna gone mental, or a fan of the ad.
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I'll not show a MFI/DFS/Harvey's ad (though the latter makes me laugh, if only for the latent misogynony in the execution), but yes, those are also inexorably tied into Christmas, if only for the low low prices.
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Instead, let's look at the new Coke ad:
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Another extension of their very successful 'Coke side of life' tagline. It would seem the strategy is to emphasise that Coke can provide happiness and fulfilment whatever the era. It wears the strategy a little too obviously (let's see, a bildungsroman IN the advert/flickering calendar pages..hmm..), but it's not a bad ad on the whole.
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The biggest criticism is that it's not inherently memorable - yes, it's a big budget Coke ad. But it doesn't grab me like say, the next ad we're going to look at, or indeed the GTA viral or W&K's 'Happiness Factory' for Coke in the same campaign.
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So yes, it's worthy of a minced pie and some mulled wine, but it's no turkey. Neither is the next ad; the herald angels have been singing:
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Boots' 'Tis the Season to be Gorgeous' has been rightly lauded as an example of unique and thought provoking Christmas advertising. Pitting the norm of Christmas preparation (someone, usually mum, getting stuck into the pots, pans, prep and presents) against the glamour pusses of this ad is an interesting move.
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Again, I feel it's successful because it doesn't ram Christmas down your throats. Simply, it's seasonal without being obtrusive, something which I think the vast majority of advertising agencies and advertisers find very difficult to do. It also helps that it's one of the best ads for lighting/art direction/overall execution in the past year, never mind the festive season.
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Finally, we'll get to the real turkey in the bunch:
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(Before you ask, yes, it's 2005's version - I couldn't find '06, but rest assured, it's as bad).
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Woolies should be the place for Christmas. It does pretty much have everything you need in store, including last minute gifts like this one. I would imagine the brief was something along the lines of 'Woolworths - all your Christmas needs instore'.
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So, as you'd expect, product and offer are king in both execution. However, as a result, it falls foul of the cardinal sin of Christmas advertising, or at least what I believe it is; shouting about your 4 P's, product price, promotion and place.
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So how COULD Wooly and Worth save Christmas? Barring some sort of mistletoe led innuendo, I'm finding it difficult to imagine. Why not attempt to understand just what Christmas is like? Make reference to the fact that last minute shopping DOES occur incredibly frequently, and that Woolworths can help solve these problems, both by either helping the customer do it online or by being there instore if it has been left last minute.
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Anyway, these are just a few Christmas ads. Does anyone have any ideas about any others?
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Facebook is a terrible, terrible thing..



A portrait of the author as a drunken student...or: How alcohol and Christmas crackers don't mix.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Reflections - Or...how like your blog are you?


(N.B: This was spawned from the coffe morning with Russell and co/from a conversation with Paul).
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After meeting people at these coffee mornings, I was wondering. Are people really like their blogs? Moreover, do you think you've changed since writing your own?
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Paul thought that how I was at the coffee morning is how I am in writing. Not sure whether I agree - I was far too quiet in the big group discussions (probably out of respect). From my perspective, Paul was quieter, Richard was happier (Colman slander, I later discovered) and Russell was as I remembered him (I went along to the first coffee morning).
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For what it's worth, I think my blog is 'Will-lite', and I'm going to endeavour to fix this over the next few weeks. More camera phone pictures, if I can hook up my phone to this aging PC. I think a lot of it depends on the purpose of the blog; if mine wasn't to offer a peculiar mixture of career-esque musings and posts about hedgehogs, I think it'd focus a lot more on random sartorial thoughts, in much the same way Paul does (ok, I'm kidding...I have no distinguishing socks).
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I think Russell Davies's blog is perhaps the purest example of a blog that is its author. Helped, of course, by the pictures of Arthur and posts about anything and everything.
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But are blogs inherently more readable when they aren't focused on a topic? I know for a fact that my posts make a lot more sense when I have to justify something as opposed to rambling about what I ate today.
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Depends, of course, what you are after. But what does everyone else think?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Today is the greatest day I've ever known (thoughts on music)


Reading Northern Planner's post about music habits got me thinking about my own musical consumption. You, faithful reader, can improve this by buying me some of my musical wishlist.

I felt like thinking about my own musical journey (obviously, this will be massively sparse and incomplete).

1986: I am two years old - Paul Simon's Graceland and Billy Joel's Innocent Man are played a great deal in the car . To this day, 'Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes' remains my favourite song, and Graceland my favourite album.

1989: Tapes of Fleetwood Mac and the Beatles 'Love Songs' are played. Still can't track down the Beatles cover of Buddy Holly's Words of Love on CD. Cracking tune.

1990 - 1991: Bad is on almost constant repeat in the car. It was the first album I ever 'owned'. Dangerous is notable because it's the first time I felt let down by an album. So much so that I can't remember half of the tracks on it.. unlike the next era of music.

1992 - 1994: Aka the Dad rock years. Albums by Dire Straits, Genesis, Chris Rea, Van Morrison and the Eurythmics dominate my listening habits. I've still got a soft spot for most of these albums. However, interspersed with some New Order, I began to (along with practically everyone else of that age) play a lot more football and listen to a lot more indie music. I think the two were intertwined with me at that age.

1995 - 1998: I must confess, I overlooked 'Definitely Maybe'. But when WTSMG came round, it pretty much dominated all my music buying. Hence, I went on a bit of an indie binge over the next few years; The Verve, Echobelly (snap), The Bluetones, Ocean Colour Scene, Stereophonics and Ash amongst many many others.

1999 - 2001: As well as getting caught up in the inevitable 'The' band craze (White Stripes, Vines et al), I went backwards and listened to Revolver properly, as well as buying and listening to everything Stone Roses related. I still hadn't lost my indie tendancies. Again, Mersey Paradise from their B-Sides album still proves to be one of my favourites.

I began getting into heavier, more feedback inspired albums, such as Psychocandy by the Jesus & Mary Chain, along with the odd psychadelia of Gomez and the bouncy punk pop of Greenday and Jimmy Eat World. Jurassic 5's EP was the sole concession to any form of hip-hop.


2002 - 2003: Going backwards before forwards, I finally picked up some classics by The Smiths and the first RATM album (having bypassed angry teenager music, I now seemed to discover it at University), along with the eponymous Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream still being a favourite of mine.

Intelligent bubblegum pop made an appearance with Fountains of Wayne's Utopia Parkway. Some classical also came into play; I began listening to a lot of Beethoven as a result of this Classic FM (not quite that one, couldn't find the exact one) album. I remain bloody awful at remembering the names of different pieces though. At some point during this year I bought all of Massive Attack's albums.

2004: The bubblegum pop trend continued with some Brendan Benson, but to go with it this time came some groove oriented indie (Kasbian, The Music). However, the biggest discovery that year was Nick Cave. Going to one of his gigs that year, I began collecting most of his albums. I also finally bought the only good Weezer album, after listening to an old tape copy for most of Sixth Form. A musical discovery that year was Robert Randolph and the Family Band; some funky stuff.

2005: I listened to Soundgarden a lot this year, as well as RJD2. For some reason, the tracks 'Rain City' and 'The Imploding Voice' (by Turin Brakes and the SP respectively) remind me of writing my dissertation. On a slightly more chilled out vibe, I got into Elliott Smith and Nick Drake at around this time as well, along with most of the rest of Nick Cave's back catalogue.

2006: So far this year I've been listening to Hot Chip (over and over, like a monkey with a minature cymbal), along with some Secret Machines (who says prog is dead?) and Paul Simon's latest album.

On the suggestion of Jeffre, I've bought some Scritti Politti and I have to say, I'm enjoying it a great deal. Gartside's voice is really interesting...it's a voice of a 14 year old, albeit one with immense talent and a good line in a esoteric lyric. I've also recently bought some Tori Amos, and I'm liking that as well. After seeing DJ Shadow live, I've bought Entroducing. Can't believe I didn't own it before.

So yes, this list is by no means exhaustive.. I think I spent the majority of my student loan on music. No mentions of Mew, Idlewild, Tom Waites, Radiohead or The Clash.

All of these songs are tied up with different parts of my life. Tellingly, there's one song (you've guessed it, Heartbeats) which has got me to buy an album on the back of an ad. If more ads could carry this kind of emotional weight, then they'd be in a very strong position indeed.
I can remember exactly where I was when I was listening to the above albums.
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Sad, but the same can't be said for many ads. Anyway.. a question:
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What's your musical journey, readers?

All hail the mighty Potters..


Bit of a break from the advertising world, but to hell with it - there are some things far more important than that: Stoke City went 7 games unbeaten yesterday, and I was there to see the latest win.
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This will probably curse them, but it looks promising - I actually look forward to Saturday afternoons at the moment.
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Funnily enough, I can't quite explain how I came to support them (by rights, I should support West Brom, Aston Villa or.. God help us, Worcester City). I was a contrary lad; my father's a Leicester City fan, and Stoke always used to wallop seven shades of piss out of Leicester whenever they played. So it was the Potters for me.
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To get some idea of what it's like to actually be there, watch this:
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That's Delilah, our club song (lifted from Tom Jones).
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Strange thing, being a football fan. Almost like buying certain brands; they certainly exist a certain way in your mind.. (ok, I'll stop the Seth Godin esque thinking there). However, it is strange, the levels of devotion they can conjure up. I think the best description of how and why the tribal mentality affects people is this book by John King.
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Normal service will be resumed in the next post/when Stoke lose (whichever comes first).
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Friday, December 08, 2006

Keeping my promise..


It's not just Richard who does war time imagery in his blog posts. Anyway, this short post is simply to say - check the side bar for my 'Ad Land' squidoo and my del.icio.us.

I hope they are both useful and interesting. I'll post something bizarre a little later.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Duck Hunt. Or how Graduate Ad Interviews Work..

Graduate interviews. Strange things, really.
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As you might expect, I've done the lot. Filmed a 5 minute DVD about myself, gone to a party, taken part in an online account management test and even just talked for thirty minutes about myself and ads (the standard format).

I've behaved like a gigantic muppet in some interviews, (probably) acted like a legend in others. On any given day, I can look like a pillock:


Or a complete hero:



Before you ask, yes, alcohol was involved in the former photo. Rather like Lebowski's dancing, I think.

As a result of this, I've gained some pretty interesting work experience. But damnit, enough of this. I want a job now. Preferably in an agency with some interesting clients/one where I don't have to imbibe or live and breathe some peculiar agency philosophy which I don't agree with.
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The clich├ęd truisms are right though; there are different agency 'feels'; ones which you instantly feel comfortable in, and others.. well, others where you couldn't imagine spending more time in it than simply lingering in reception.
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That said, as far as my experiences have taught me, it's often the latter which leads to the better creative work...though this kind of working environment may not be what you want, as a junior planner/account man.
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My thoughts are so fragmented on this that I'm going to publish a squidoo on different agencies and some of their thinking. This was prompted by a kind email from David Walden (another wannabe ad man) - check out his blog.
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But yes, it really depends on whether I'm making sense in the morning, whether the sun and stars have aligned, or what I've had for breakfast (it was just a cup of tea that morning).
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As you may have guessed, I'm in the middle of interview season.
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Sunday, December 03, 2006

"No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better"

Right, I said I'd try and write something to justify my credo. This is it, and I apologise in advance if it's not up to the same standard as Beeker's.

I think my credo could be misinterpreted as Zen-like rubbish. It's strange (and I'll come onto explain this in a little while) but I think it tries to combine diligence and effort with being free spirited, if that makes sense. One thing is for sure, it's not quite up to the standard of this Caddyshack clip about Zen:





I've always lived my life from the perspective of someone who has realised that I don't have the natural ability to instantly be the best at everything I do. Sounds obvious I know, but hell, I think credos are inherently simplistic.

For what it's worth, I like to think I'm a pretty good writer (although this blog may be proving otherwise), someone who is fairly well read, an adequate sportsman (ok, ok, a poor sportman in everything barring golf, football and badminton) and generally a good bloke to be around. As I've mentioned before, I'm a useful trivial pursuit player - I know a little bit about a lot of things.
This lack of innate natural ability (unless I have some fantastic tiddlywinks ability lurking in the background) has always meant that I've had to push myself harder in order to get the most out of my talents.

*Cue thoughts on interestingness, a la Beeker*


Like Richard and Jon Steel say, these are good ways to judge an idea and an advertising execution. But I also think, like Beeker, that these criteria can inform on people as well.

Beeker has chosen the second, beauty, to inform on her credo. Yet I think the first - truth - informs on my credo, if I'm honest.

Watch this:



Now, how does knowing the truth have anything to do with failure? Well, my argument to that is that it's incredibly important. Knowing who you are, or where something is coming from, is the cornerstone of how I think and act. It's not to say things cannot change. They can, and frequently do. But knowing the now, as much as is possible, means that you can 'fail better' and improve.

Beauty and rationality are both important, but I feel that the middle ground, the truth, better informs on who I am.

I can take leaps of faith, but equally, at times, need to believe something to see it, and my perception of beauty changes with the day. The truth changes as well, but of the three, it seems to me to be the most tangible, and as such, the heart of my thinking on life, brands, the universe or indeed, the Dalai Lama.
 
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