Saturday, November 24, 2007

Can you care too much?

Or not enough in this man's case.

Well, I've no doubt that a fair number of the readers of this blog have noticed that England's Euro 2008 campaign has ended, in spectacular style.

And, amidst all of the caterwailing that followed, the inevitable accusation came - that these pampered, over exposed, overpaid players just don't care about their country. Because I'm a perverse bugger who tends to try and see the other side of things, I think the opposite is true. If anything, I think they cared too much, that got inside their minds, and they bottled it, despite obviously having the technique to be able to get a result.

As for McClaren, well, it seems the opposite is true (I tried to find the photo of him with an umbrella, but sadly couldn't track it down). Out thought by Slaven Bilic, dear oh dear.

And it got me thinking about caring about things, and the notion of caring too much. It's particularly relevant to me, as I (when I'm unsure of what to do) worry unduly. Part of that is when I'm doing and learning new things.

It can be almost paralysing, especially if you publically handwring - something which doesn't help anything or anyone (and was, let's be honest, shown by the England team in their 'performance' against Croatia).

But should it be surprising? In this world, where continuous partial attention rules ok, where shuffling through vast libraries of music is the norm, and where everyone has about seven tabs open on their browser, there's often a worry about priorities.

And given that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in something, according to Radio 4, it can seem like a massive mountain - will my performance be adequate, whether I'm an international footballer, an ad bod or a barrister? I guess the difficulty comes in just experiencing things, and not worrying about whether you'll be up to the task (which is, I think, what happened to England on Wednesday).

So yes, experience and trying and failing rules ok when it comes to learning. Care about that. Everything else is just unnecessary window dressing, and hey - if you don't chance your arm when you're learning, when will you?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

I like free things...

John's new book.

...but I like smart thinking even more.

Given that I'm currently trying to think about a lot of green issues for a lot of the brands I'm working on, this post was particularly timely.

Greenormal is a great blog. Have a butchers, if you don't already. I really like how John has shed some light on the notion of green thinking, and how it relates to the dichotomy between green and commerce. I can't wait to have a read of the book.

Having a 'green matrix' is a particularly fine idea, and potentially a great framework to use when talking to organisations about how they can update their thinking, behaviour and, subsequently, their communications. (Notice how that came last).

Link to John's post (at least, the first 50 people) if you fancy reading some more on this topic...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Brain Food..

Depends what you via Bifurcate.

Time for something not directly about my workplace (aka, getting this blog back on rambling nonsense mode).

It occurs to me that quite a lot of my time as a planner is spent filtering out what I have to, and what I don't have to know, in order to know about a certain subject, whether it be a brand of car, dominos, faberge eggs or Stoke City.

Now, the danger is, with this filter in place (and I'm sure it happens at every workplace, or whenever you just want to relax), you lose the ability to challenge yourself, and at worst, intrigue and inspire those around you.

And it's something which can't always be easily done. But sod that; to be stimulating, you need to be stimulated. It's why I get on the tube every morning and read classic literature and not the latest 'man falls in love with cactus' story from the Metro. I need to be pushed, to be challenged by my reading, viewing, or whatever it is I'm listening to on my iPod.

It's just so easy to rely on random fodder for your mind, something which requires no thought, no challenge your preconceptions. Particularly when you are exposed to so much information on a daily basis. Well, I didn't get into adland, or indeed, do anything in my life, without wanting to be interested and interesting on a daily basis. The need to be interesting should overwhelm everything I do.

Bluntly, I can do that by reading Fitzgerald's account of madness, by going to gigs, by going to the V&A once and a while. Not by being chained to my desk, as much as I like my work colleagues.

And no, obviously I recognise the need to crack on, to do work. But in times where work dominates things, this should serves as a little reminder to myself (and hopefully to others) to make sure I keep on being alive to all the many cultural nuances out there. God knows, there are enough of them..

If anyone has any brain foody suggestions going on in London in the next month, hit me with them..

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Still Here..

I didn't beat the security guard in, sadly.


It's been a few weeks now. So I thought I should write a short missive, before I bugger off to soup/Match of the Day 2.

I have been a busy boy, with quite a few accounts on the go, an inability to remember names/learning how to filter out unnecessary stats (the last bit is taking quite a long time), and just generally worrying that I seem to spend quite a lot of time thinking about things, rather than on the phone, like my account team.

Revisiting the old master.

Still, all's going well. I'm getting to grips with Outlook/meetings and suchlike. I'm also slightly in awe of the account team I sit with, and reminded why I was so rubbish at account handling.

Indeed, I'm learning how to work in a team again, what with all of the different personalities and behaviours. Working as a freelancer really doesn't teach you that, as nice as it is. Of course, those same people can also give you work to do, which is sometimes a bit of a bugger, but ah's a learning process, and I'm trying to get to grips with working on multiple accounts with different priorities.

It's all a bit mind bending, jumping from one strategic problem to the neck. But I'm learning. The next thing will be briefing folk. I'm sure it'll all be good...

All of that said, I wish the Piccadilly line wasn't such a bastard. Bloody tourists. Heh.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Back To Work..

I hope I don't have to sit at a desk like this.

Since the demise of my former agency, I have been a rambling man, hitching my spurs to various freelance assignments.

Well, I'm pleased to report that yes, I have a new job. It's here. I start on Monday.

Needless to say, it's been a very interesting last 6 months. Interesting in the character building sense, but I think I wouldn't be as appreciative of my new position if I hadn't had to work for it. I'm grateful to be able to put my head down, and learn some more proper planning. I still have a fear of groups which needs to be overcome (having never done any - though I have viewed them before).

I'd also like to say thanks very much to everyone who has had to put up with my whinging, networking and ruminating on the topic of advertising recruitment. Special thanks must go to Rob, Charles, Sam, Andrew, Lauren, MJ, and my Dad. Thank you all.

And one really good thing came out of all of this malarky - Ad Grads, which we hope will provide a useful resource for any grads, or people wanting to switch careers. We aim to keep up the momentum of the blog, and encourage more and more people to write copy for us, to keep things interesting and ticking along. If you fancy it, shoot us an email..

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Not a load of old cobblers..

Nice boots. But could they be jazzed up a bit?

I've long been a fan of brands which have a real historical factor, and are constantly seeking to innovate. Penguin, Kodak and Guinness, to name but a few.

And I believe Dr Martens fall into this category. As they put it on their site, "No other ‘brand’ has been mutated, customised, fucked up and freaked out like DM’s. Without asking or being able to stop it."

Now, a lot of brands over a certain age try to assert their historical, 'we were first' credentials. And a statement like the one above looks like puffery if you aren't careful. So, it is nice to see them actually walking the walk (not an intentional pun, I promise), and actually giving the masses something to play with.

A contemporary classic is what, I'd imagine, the likes of Converse and Vans are constantly trying to achieve. Where those brands differ from Dr Martens, for me (as an innocent shoe bystander with no real loyalty to any of them, to be honest), is that they aren't regarded as having the ability to last. Dr Martens, as a brand, and as a shoe, can actually make assertions like the one above because I would imagine (in the event of any post apocalyptic landscape) that Doc Martens will still be about. Not quite so convinced by t'others.

Annnyway, all of that waffle leads me to a site which some friends of mine have designed for DM.

Yes, you can make a design for a boot, which will be available in DM shops worldwide, and you'll receive a thousand pounds for your trouble. I like these kind of campaigns. Especially when I'm guaranteed to win the money:

I'm not sure if ANYONE can beat that bad boy, but if you think you could do better, go here..

Nina, Lauren, Tom LR, Ben, Smithy - I expect submissions. With pictures, just like mine..go on. If you are interested, join the Facebook group here.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Karl Lagerfeld and Creativity..

The man himself. Picture via Robtanphotos. Usual rules apply.

I've been contemplating the nature of creativity for a little while now, and thought I should share with you a few quotes from Karl Lagerfeld as well as an interview I read with him.

Obviously, as a planner, I'm interested in the process of creativity, and how best I can help stimulate creatives to make brilliant (and effective) work. Now, while fashion is a wholly different world to advertising in some respects (does it really matter if conventional models of effectiveness are adhered to in fashion?), there are some fascinating similarities, and some thought-provoking pieces of thinking dictating how we go about creating new work.

The first gem from Karl is: "I don't like standard beauty – there is no beauty without strangeness."

Let's stop and think about this, in relation to advertising. Take the Cravendale work, right from the 'Cows want it back' through the current W&K 'Miiilk' executions. Distinctive, eh? I think so - and for me, the purpose of the advertising is to emphasise the moreish nature of the product, yet doing it in a wholly new way for the category, in the case of both executions.

Compare this to the endlessly bland ads you see on a daily basis - when was the last time (honestly, without your advertising hat on), you tried to analyse a print ad, or a TV spot? I bet it was a long time ago - because what the industry perceives as beautiful - say a stunning piece of print art direction - has become something people expect, or have gotten used to seeing (that's not to say it can't be spot on, of course).

In my opinion, some of the best outdoor stuff (Ogilvy's cigarette tanker for Cancer Research UK) and print (RKCR's 'Soon' for Virgin Atlantic). Both are very different, what I believe Lagerfeld infers when he talks about things being 'strange'.

On with the quotes.."People who say that yesterday was better than today are ultimately devaluing their own existence."

This one, for me, is interesting - it really speaks to the notion of what, I think, fashion is. And also why it is so widely decried as a waste of time by those people who see it as being fantastical, but ultimately a needless indulgence.

Now, when cameras come into ad agencies, the results seem to be very similar - the general public seen it as a waste of time, rampant creativity at its worst. And yes, I've been in situations where you dearly wish people would remember their history (as they should), but that's not to say we should cling resolutely to Messrs Bernbach, Krone, Saatchi et al when it comes to playing with the notion of a layout, or challenging some of the limitations of conventional advertising.

Essentially, continually striving to make the next piece of creative work the best it can be. Don't be content to have another car ad with it driving along fast, with a rock soundtrack. No, think about what the driving experience is actually like, for example.

Right, enough creative cheerleading, have some more Karl (this is the only quote from The Observer Magazine on 27th of May 2007 - read the article here), on the subject of how he goes about creating ideas:

(After illustrating a model) "Lagerfeld ripped the drawing from the pad, crushed it in his hands, and tossed it into a large wicker hamper, which over the course of the evening filled with similar small masterpieces. 'I throw everything away!' he declared.' The most important piece of furniture in a house is the garbage can! I keep no archives of my own, no sketches, no photos, no clothes - nothing! I am supposed to do, I'm not supposed to remember!' He smoothed a gloved hand over the empty page in front of him and visibly relaxed."

Now, I think that bit in particular is telling about the nature of creativity, and creatives. The idea of chucking everything away and starting again is really interesting - and if the planner has written a half decent brief, that sort of zest should manifest itself in the work.

Of course, it is also potentially problematic - the way Lagerfeld is implies someone who wants to shut themselves away, and not take any guidance from anyone else (which is rubbish - he's met a friend of mine/'borrowed' one of his ideas). And this, if applied to advertising, suggests a sort of creativity which is at odds with the notion of sociability, of creating ideas that get infused into culture (which is when, I think, advertising is at its best).

I think Lagerfeld is a fascinating man (anyone who loses 6 stone in little over a year has to have an iron will), and I'm going to enjoy seeing how creativity, both advertising and beyond, continues to manifest itself in the light of technological advances.

When it comes to advertising, I'm with Laurence Green's article - I think the best work taps into people's innermost beliefs and desires, and makes them want to play and engage with it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Boy in the Bubble..

A future 2012 event? Picture via thebiggfrogg. Usual rules apply.

No, not the Paul Simon song. Though that is a corker. Today's diatribe is more concerned with the nature of my working environment.

It is very very easy for people who work in this business to live in a dream world. We work, let's face it, in a niche environment, populated by people who deal in business building ideas.

Even after little over a year and a half in this environment, I remain amazed at who knows who. And, being honest, it's very easy to get into a pattern of gossiping, or speculating about things. Contrary to popular belief, I don't have much of a problem of the 'garden fence' type of discussions that go on - it's what the entire industry, to an extent, is founded upon.

I do worry about blogging to some extent, that the tendancy is to reject what has made this industry great - to slag off big agencies without much knowledge of what goes on within them, for example. And too much navel gazing isn't good for the soul, I'm finding - goodness knows, I tend to find myself self-referencing every now and again, which is pretty odd, let me tell you.

This, if left unchecked, would result in me never actually DOING work (one of the primary concerns about blogging, which is a fair point), and using borrowed opinions to make a career, which really isn't on (what is blogging if not the misappropriation of a mish-mash of influences/blogposts/thoughts?).

Breaking out of this self-imposed bubble is oh so important, whether it's a blogging bubble, or industry related, or over-focus on a particular brand. Though I've not read the Perfect Pitch, it is, I believe, partly what Jon Steel infers when he talks about disliking Blackberrys and so forth, as they chain you to a rigid way of thinking.

And it is particularly necessary within the creative industries. A too focused approach on rigid 'accountability' means people can't do their jobs properly (obviously, a degree is necessary, otherwise we'd end up navel gazing again), and don't work to the best of their abilities. Additionally, I've always distrusted the requirement to 'say the right things' in graduate interviews, for example. Load of cobblers. That won't find the innovators, the people who change how the business works, who'll lead by example.

It also encourages agencies to not hire those people who spend their time doing things; moreover, people who can think, but not do. To use an analogy - I can read you chapter and verse about certain historical periods if I've revised them, but could I live the life of a historian? Hell no.

Now, I'm very culpable of not doing enough (especially during this bout of freelance, when I've had a bit more time), but I'd like to hope that's changing, because too much thinking, like too much doing, isn't necessarily useful. And I'd like to see the business recognising that it needs thinkers and doers (because there will be always people who trend towards one side or the other) from outside the bubble.

If you get trapped in it, you start thinking brand onions and pretesting is the be all and end all of a successful piece of your employment. God help us all if that happens.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Usability and T'internet..

The $100 laptop in all its glory. Picture via cheesebikini. Usual rules apply.

Well, it would seem that the $100 laptop is not far away from being launched. But the truly clever bit is that it's being sold over here as well, as 'buy one, give one' trial.

I think this generous idea is one which should be applauded. And it's something which could really be adopted nicely on the internet. After all, what's to stop people from working out how its made/making a better, cheaper one? I think it's great, and without the internet, we'd never have been able to push this idea forward.

And it ties into a thought I've been having about usability and the internet/general product and marketing success stories. Something which, indirectly, Rob's blog highlighted. Nokia are number one worldwide, due, in a large part, to their easy to use phones.

In my opinion (increasingly), the same is true of every successful internet venture.

So, in that spirit, I must salute two different sites. JustGiving is a great charitable donation site, and I used it to donate to a friend's marathon against Alzheimers (a very worthy cause, which you can help out here - go on, he's only £200 off his target).

Deezer, the second (formerly Blogmusik) is a site which Mr Brown pointed me in the direction of. And with good reason - 's bloody good, and so easy to use. I've been happy, finding out some more LCD Soundsystem to listen to, as well as some classic Bluetones. So thanks Marcus. Everyone else, check out my working playlist:

free music

Good eh? Very easy to use, and what I think the internet was designed for. Any other good sites you know of?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Selling a Turkey...

Hello there.

Just before I bugger off/stop thinking advertising related thoughts for the week, I thought I should have a bit of a rant and a pontification about the nature of products and services.

Recently, this blog has seemed concerned with advertising's purpose and future. Well, I'm afraid this post isn't going to be massively different (but don't worry, mindless nonsense and some news is coming soon...honest).

I believe in the power of advertising. I think, if used well, it can tell stories which can irrevocably change the fortunes of people, yellow fats and more besides. And, I think there'll always be a place for this.

Sadly, what it can't do is change what people, products et al are. If your product is crap, if your customer service is poor - yeah, you'll be found out, and buggered. Especially nowadays. I can, for example, write a blog account of just what good customer service I've had from 3 mobile - especially if I seed it well - it'll (hopefully) impact on someone's purchasing decision.

No amount of advertising, PR or otherwise can turn a sow's ear into a silk purse. It's certainly possible to take an average product, throw loads of cash at a comms solution, but advertising can't do it alone.

It's why I'm so fond of Richard's way of writing brand positionings, because it has its roots in some form of brand truth - you cannot lie; your brand promise has to be rooted in some kind of truth. If it isn't, first of all it's sloppy planning, and secondly, it's downright lies.

I'd be mortified if any kind of planner got sucked into believing the hype around the product or service. Planners should never be too in love with any brand they work on - cold hard objectivity is the order of the day, along with the ability to be a (I heard this the other day) 'culture prostitute', keen to lever in just whatever works with the brand. Just not outright lies.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Look Familiar?

Remember those days? My mortarboard didn't fit. Sigh. Via David. Usual rules apply.

You'd have thought the majority of people in the picture above will have graduated recently, and will be wondering what the hell to do with their lives. However, an awful lot of them will have made up their minds, and I'd have thought those lot would have been interested in working in our business.

Rewind a year, and ask yourself. Did I, or my agency, do enough to make them consider advertising/media as a career?

Well, if that picture isn't from select Universities, probably not.

God knows the career options I faced were either become an accountant, a lawyer or a recruitment consultant. And, with respect to all of those professions, they weren't what I wanted to do.

And I'll be damned if the same happens to the next generation after me.

So it heartens me that Ad Grads is beginning to whir into action. We've now got 5 star stories (the most recent one is Scamp, aka Simon Veksner of BBH), some graduate accounts of what the business is really like, some notifications about the newer schemes being opened and have (finally) begun to cobble the wiki together.

Heck, we've even gotten into Media Week this week, apparently (nice one Sam).

But that's not enough. No, we want even more accounts from you guys, whether you are a recent grad or an established star. If you read this blog and would like to contribute to it, shoot me an email (it's on the right hand side of the page), or email ad grads at gmail dot com.

And it's not just account handlers or planners we want. Nope - traffic/creative services, researchers, all are welcome.

Additionally, if you think we've not raised something which should be discussed (working conditions, for example), let us know, and we'll see if we can't help sort it out.

What Ad Agencies can learn from AC/DC..

Angus doing what he does best. Picture via T-Klick. Usual rules..

I've been listening to an awful lot of three chord music recently (no, no Status Quo, happily). And it seems to me that there's a parallel there with the swirling, ever changing advertising world.

Namely, that very simple songs can seem infinitely more complicated than they are, and if people over analyse them, it's usually a bit of a mistake. Indeed, one of planning's cardinal sins is to buy into the overcomplication, to not put its foot down when people are taking part in flights of fancy (does any FMCG need bloody twitter, eh?).

And I know that there have never ever been more terms to describe things than there are now. Hell, just take planning. Am I a creative planner, a strategic planner, a comms planner? God knows.

I sometimes wonder, with this increasing vocabulary, whether we try too hard to see things that aren't there; after all, I'm a firm believer that the simpler the communication message, or the more natural the use of technology, the better the results - look at the Sainsbury's with 'Try Something New Today' and Tesco's Clubcard implementation for proof of this.

And it's one of my tenets, which might not be massively fashionable - I think advertising is essentially simple. People don't really change much; we all lust after the same basic things, we all want to be entertained, and advertising is all about working out how products fit into this mix (that's the more complex bit).

I'll leave you with this from Wikipedia, something Angus Young said when he was asked why AC/DC's music was so simplistic:

"It's just rock and roll. A lot of times we get criticised for it. A lot of music papers come out with: 'When are they going to stop playing these three chords?' If you believe you shouldn't play just three chords it's pretty silly on their part. To us, the simpler a song is, the better, 'cause it's more in line with what the person on the street is."

Sound familar?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Effort and Reward...

Being able to shift tyres = a life skill. Picture via macredeye. Usual rules..

A little while ago, I read Herd, written by Mark. And in my Amazon review of it, I expressed that I was really chuffed about the chapter on belief systems. Well, this post is a little bit about one of my own beliefs, sharpened by something James Cherkoff has written and a piece of work Lee has blogged about.

Speaking personally (is there any other way?), I've got to say that I'm someone who really believes in the application of effort. That is to say, if you are someone who is willing to put the effort in, to give it your all, you deserve a reward. I have a lot less time for people who rock up and expect things to fall into their laps. Perhaps this is rooted in the fact that I was an average student who tried, and, through a bit of effort, became a halfway decent one. I don't know.

Put in the hard yards, and you'll get your just deserts. It's why, I think, I don't tend to champion an awful lot of brand ideas; because there is no sense of any effort being put in - if advertisers aren't willing to entertain/enlighten/inform me properly, why the hell should I reward them with a purchase? This ties in nicely with James's blog post above - being thoughtful, and generous as a brand (a Richardism) would seem to be essential, and a lot of 'ad' people don't get that, and believe they can easily sway people's opinions (which they have formed from their trusted friends, in this new 2.0 landscape) ahead of their conversations with, you know, REAL people.

I may not go quite as far as James suggests (I still believe good advertising, which puts in the effort, can have some influence - if I didn't, I wouldn't work in this business), but, bluntly, I'm not much of a fan of the church of the 'brand' or the 'advertising or death' mantra which still seems to crop up in the odd conversation I have with people.

Annnyway. Ahem. Good brand advertising can work if it tries as bloody hard as this Brylcreem spot. It's a lovely bit of thinking, but an even better, harder working creative idea. And, people ACTUALLY participated, unlike a lot of these sorts of things. Enjoy (and check out the Myspace page - it's absolutely brilliant):

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Five Worst Songs on your ipod..

Right, it's time for one of them thar meme things.

I'm about to embarass myself - and is there anything worse than revealing moments of musical weakness?

No, of course not. Here's my five:

1) Phil Collins - Easy Lover

Does this one really need a great deal of explanation? Given the amount of Phil Collins in advertising at the moment, it's a drop kick choice. Hell, upon looking at its Wikipedia entry, it was even used as some of the music for the inaugural Wrestlemania. And yes, Philip Bailey (he of Earth Wind & Fire) duets with our Phil. What's not to love here? From the overdone synth/cymbal/drum intro to the glorious harmony, this is a bit of a winner...listen to it here.

2) Rednex - Cotton Eye Joe

I seem to have some sort of odd fondness for music that was popular when I was about ten years old. So, this bad boy has to be on my ipod. Don't quite know how it's survived the cull. If you were (un) fortunate enough to not to know of these living Swedish legends, find out more here. Almost got into Eurovision last year. Pity. As for the song, it's an uptempo, very silly country esque number. One of those grab your partner jobs. Urgh. Listen to it here.

3) Ace of Base - All That She Wants (Is Another Baby)

This one is a bit more popular. Number one in loads and loads of countries...hell, it's the best selling #2 in the US ever. It still doesn't excuse me having on the ipod, as it's a synthy, horn ridden mess of a song that (shamefully) makes me grin like a loon when it comes on. Listen to it here.

4) New Order - World In Motion

This is possibly the only song of the five that I've tried to learn the lyrics to. Ok, ok, just the infamous John Barnes rap..catch me if you can, because I'm an England man. Wonder what I'm talking about? Go here. Yep, it's the only New Order song to get to #1 in this country. Partly due to the rap and overall hilarious lyrics - 'when something's good, it's never wrong', and clearly down to the England 1990 World Cup Campaign. Oh yeah, the song... it's your typical drum heavy early 90's New Order track. Only with John Barnes rapping. Listen here (no, it's not until 3 minutes in that John does his stuff).

5) Pato Banton (feat Robin & Ali Campbell) - Baby Come Back

This one is particularly shameful. Originally by Eddy Grant (yes, it's that bad), and featuring backing vocals by Birmingham's finest - UB40, this is another song from the mid 90s which was a number one (didn't we have such fantastic charts back then?). The wiki entry is here. Didn't realise he was from Brum himself. Anyway, the song is a jaunty number, with some cracking rapping from Mr Banton himself. Bet you are looking forward to it - listen here.

Anyway - to anyone who reads this - what're your five worst songs?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Making Rubbish..

Or Art? Picture via Baz_in_Moroland. Usual rules apply.

This post is a bit of a fusion of all of the thinking which has been floating about the wider ad community for a little while (and perhaps beyond - so it's not too much of an echo chamber post, honest).

It relates to one of my cardinal rules about working in this business. Essentially, ads are no longer seen as a novelty, something to be admired and held in a state of wonderment when they are particularly good. But, often, we're making rubbish.

Deeply thought about rubbish, with all of the faux, cod science levered in, but still rubbish. And of course, with all of the recent discussion about the Cadbury's Gorilla, something occurs to me. Advertising seems to be going through a post Enlightenment phase.

Bit of a poncy way to begin a week, but bear with me. We've had the intellectualising of the discipline (say from the birth of planning to about 2004), and now there seems to be a high/low culture (click the link, it's fascinating) debate going on. Matthew Arnold would be pleased.

What's rubbish ('low' advertising) and great ('high' advertising, with an obvious logical product link, it would seem) is now of great concern. And it's not just the Cadbury's Gorilla who has led to this concern, oh no. That ad is just a trigger, and I believe it belies some of the basic fear around in the industry.

Yes, fear. Fear that we are actually helping kill the planet (a bit overdone, but hell, with all the greenwashing about at the moment, it fits), and fear we're actually wasting our time doing this (and should be doing something great and good, like teaching today's youth, working in the charity sector or defending people's rights).

And things like the ban on outdoor advertising in Sao Paulo only adds fuel to this flame. Well, what's to be done about this dilemma?

I've already written about why I'm not, as a planner, overly worried about the Cadbury's Gorilla ad - indeed, in impromptu qual studies down the pub, it was the only ad which was talked about at great length (the recall was off the charts, by any ad tracking service's quantitative measuring). I don't think many other brands will be able to pull it off, but I don't have a problem with it existing - like I said before, it'll boil down to the sales figures (or the fact that everyone seems to have forgotten any chocolate related scandal) ultimately.

Bluntly, I don't care if the ads I make are rooted in a solid planning foundation, or if they are a lot more sensorial. Oh no. I care that they shift product. Hell, I like the music of both Mozart and Alkaline Trio, after all.

But the initial point about rubbish is very very important. Though great advertising can come close to being 'art' in one sense, I've never really viewed it as that. Some may disagree, of course - the fact that I have a simplistic grasp of the art world probably shines through in that comment. No, it's a sales technique that can entertain at the same time. I'd rather it did the former than the latter, to be honest. But anything which keeps it from being rubbish is very important.

When you make advertising, you are adding to the background noise in people's lives, forcing them to process another message. So, if this post makes any point, it's to say that clients and agencies need to make damn sure that any ad they make is relevant to people's lives. Above all, keep it from being another discarded, disused, non processed piece of crap that seems to adorn billboards, TVs and cityscapes around the world.

Friday, September 07, 2007

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe...

The guy at the bottom of the pic now teaches today's youth. Be afraid.

...[and] all those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain." Yes, I've watched Blade Runner fairly recently. That quote is a bastardisation of Rutger Hauer's famous speech, which supposedly he ad libbed on the spot.

And maybe it was the copious amounts of takeaway consumed (damned MSG's), but I got to thinking about shifting perceptions. And decided to stare, yet again, at my navel (there wouldn't be much to this blog if I didn't do that, let's be honest).

So much has happened in the last couple of years. Mid 2005, I was worrying about how my dissertation on Milton would be received (pretty much as well as any dissertation comparing Milton and Hobbes before did, so that was ok), about what sort of job I'd end up doing, and what my friends would be getting up to.

I also helped organise my best mate's 21st party (he's the one in the front, with the plastic sheep). And it was trawling through Facebook that got me thinking about how the goalposts have really shifted for all of the people in that picture - myself included.

By now, some will be thinking, I'm sure, 'well, of course - it's part of growing up'. Try telling that to a 21 year old who thinks he knows exactly what he is going to do. And I thought I knew then. And it's funny (especially when keeping in touch via Facebook) to find out what other people do.

Everyone's got people in their friendship groups who they believe are going to do x or y career, and they inevitably do - but it's strange how that's (at least in my experience) begun to unravel, even just two years down the line. Some of my friends are questioning just their place in the world, wondering just where they fit in. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't had doubts in the past couple of years. Happily, this seems to correspond with Jon Steel's account of how he got into the business.

I look back to what we all thought then; just how shockingly naive we were. But I wouldn't change a damn thing (especially the T Shirts - classics that they are). Being like that got us to piss about, enjoy our time at University, drunkenly sing along to Aladdin's soundtrack and James Bond themes (after all, nobody does it better) and generally have a great time in each other's company.

And yet I've not met up with some of these people for years. I know we have gone through the inevitable divergence, but I'm buggered if I'm letting it all get lost like tears in the rain, reduced to a once the year drinks event.

It wouldn't be surprising if we all just slotted back into our University roles as well. People's behaviours don't change that much. All I can say is thank God most of them live in and around London. Now, where did I put my T-Shirt?

Friday Silliness..

Everyone loves Magical Trevor.

What, you don't know who he is?

Well, click here and here to rectify that grevious error.

Perhaps you'd like to go to Kenya as well?

NB: Be careful if playing this in the office, as it's all loud/silly/may get you told off.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

What with all the tube strikes...

Going underground? Not recently. Photo via WallyG. Usual rules..

I thought it only right to point you in the direction of the funniest thing I've seen all day. Click here for a nice summation of the tube troubles we've been having.

Oh, and be careful if you play it in a packed office. It has naughty words. If your office enjoys that sort of thing, turn it up..

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Branding the Branding Industry...

I've got an Adidas one on my left buttock. Picture via MLeak. Usual rules, etc.

Or 'why Get Smashed should be a reminder to have fun'.

You'd have thought, with all of the branding we do for clients, and how we state that keeping their identity and touch points is so important, we'd be a little better at taking our own advice.

With the endless pontification and navel gazing on the internet, I fear it's gotten worse. I mean, yesterday's shit storm about the new Cadbury's ad is case in point. The amount of people being terrified about the implications of their jobs, whether the planning function is defunct - is absolutely astounding.

I view it as a bit of a special case, as I've said before - a one off; it works because of the context, the media spend (very very clever), the fact that Cadbury's is like oxygen to chocolate lovers, and that it's undisputably number one in its marketplace.

Anyway, back to the matter in hand. Honestly, I don't think I know another industry that's so bloody frightened of its own shadow. We make ads, we try and make people buy things/do good/influence behaviour. Nothing more. We sometimes act as if we believe we're Clarkson, Piers Morgan and Adolf Hitler rolled into one, and we're very very sorry about everything we've done, past present and future.

Just stop it, please. Because, if you don't, things like this press conference will start to impinge, and we'll be left with a throughly sterile and boring industry, clamped down by the powers that be.

And, in a worst case scenario, this self-loathing seems to descend to everything; older members of staff wishing they were still in the 80's or 90's, junior staff with no real opinions of their own, fighting to please people at the expense of their own mental state/health.

I think a large part of the problem stems from the fear of being seen as an empty, pointless industry - and God knows, whenever cameras are rolling, it usually appears so. Raymond Chandler's words resound: "Chess is a elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you can find outside an advertising agency".

Why can't we celebrate the nonsense, and focus on what we're good at - helping to build businesses, brands and institutions. None of this self-reflective, ultimately destructive bollocks.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Never mind the brand bollocks, here's experiential marketing...

Not sure what he'd have made of this. Not a lot, probably.

Now, I'm not a very big Sex Pistols fan (sorry Marcus), to be honest. A bit before my time - and I think they're one of those bands you have to have either been alive during their ascendency, or have some tie to their music, and I have neither (that said, I love the Clash).

But I thought it'd be useful to discuss what made them such a good band in light of what the ad community finds itself in at the moment - what would appear to be the battle between conventional branding and experience.

The Sex Pistols, as I've said above, to me, are all about the raw, visceral experience, something which is magnified by actually being there. Now, there are other forms of music (yes, some of the Clash's stuff), which don't really require the 'being there' experience.

And I think the same is true of advertising.

Let's have a look at the current ad du jour, that of Cadbury's Dairy Milk:

And there have been a few comments already from respective ad bloggers.

First of all, let's consider this in light of what we know already. Cadbury's DM is the first choice in consumers' minds. Market leading, yada yada. So, just how much conventional planning does there need to be for something like this? People get their entertainment experience, and it makes people laugh.

Look at one of the youtube comments: "I think it's just a fun advert, nice and simple - Just like dairy milk! :P"

And let's consider it in light of when the media was sold - during Big Brother, ultimately the best example of throw away entertainment today. So it fits its target audience, who just want to be entertained; no sort of intellectual posturing will work here.

What is potentially troubling to those who don't like the ad, it would seem, is that there's no obvious connnection between the product and the ad. The worry is that it won't do anything for Cadbury's sales, but get people talking about the gorilla drumming. I'd love to see the recall stats for this ad. But does any of this matter for Cadbury, who are number one anyway?

Let me tie this post together. Bluntly, I think there's a bit of a dichotomy between conventional brand planning and the more fast and loose experiential work at the moment. Additionally, I think both are beginning to inform on each other - the Cadbury's ad is an experience, pure and simple, and more and more experiential work is adopting more brand cues - look at some of the work Iris have done for Sony Ericsson (most notably 'Gig in the Sky' and 'Night Tennis').

Unlike a lot of the people in the threads posted earlier, I'm not worried about planning's role in all of this - surely, its role was to advise how best to reach the target audience for Cadbury's DM (I'm guessing 15-30 year olds, but I could be wrong) and what would maximise salesamongst this age group. Now, I'd love to see what the sales figures are like afterwards, just to see if planning/advertising is changing beyond just meeting business expectations, as Marcus proposes here.

Brands, it would seem, have the greatest success when they latch onto a zeitgeist, or create one themselves. Both experential marketing and 'normal' branding can do this - but it may lead to the conventional lines of what planning is changing. And it perhaps asks a bigger question - does this matter?

Are we getting into 'Ads for Ads sake' territory here?

I don't think so, but one thing's for sure - the devices we are using to inform our audiences are blurring the techniques that underly it all.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Musings on Talent and HR...

If only there was a magic database that handled recruitment. Picture via chrisweb99. Usual rules etc.

Before I begin my usual foray into things I don't fully understand, I'd suggest you read this post by Anthony Goh, aka Dead Insect.

Bloody brilliant, eh?

Well, I was particularly drawn to it, because (as you'll have read), Anthony is in a similar boat to me - he's doing a spot of freelancing at the moment. Albeit projects requiring more experience. And I share his frustration at certain agencies' recruitment processes.

While I like to freelance (it's great fun, and you get to work when you want, which is handy), a greater part of me wants to go back on board as a full timer and learn, and be part of a great team to boot.

Where this falls down is the convoluted recruitment processes that some agencies employ - personally, I've had the most success through going straight to the source, in the most part, and just having a coffee and a chat with people I admire, and would like to work for/with. The idea of a HR 'gatekeeper' is another of those reasons why I'm proud to help contribute to Ad Grads.

Bluntly, I'm terrified that the weapons advertising (and indeed, the wider communication field) has, that of variety and a good working experience, have been eroded over the past twenty years.

No, the marketplace isn't the picture Sam Delaney paints in Get Smashed. 80's decadence has long since passed. But the ability to have fun, to mix with a diverse range of people, and get paid to be involved in something which has the potential to be as much of a pursuit as a job at times is one which the ad industry needs to cling on to.

And, let's be honest, parts of the industry are shooting themselves in the foot.

I'll give you an example of how it should go. I email someone, either off a blog or through working out their email address. We meet for coffee. There is/isn't a vacancy, and the conversation either continues in a non-work capacity (they become my friend or somesuch) or it takes on a more work related spin, and I get freelance/a job.

Now, flip that. I set up a meeting with someone through someone else. I get briefed on what they want, the meeting goes well (let's assume). I get told good things...then nothing. Nada. Zipski. I can't do much, because I didn't initiate the meeting. Finally, I get a call from someone in HR, telling me I wasn't a 'cultural fit' or somesuch (the ultimate, ultimate cop out answer).

I'm deeply concerned that the obstinancy many agencies adopt will kill the next generation of potential ad men. God knows that I've heard and spoken to enough senior agency people that lament how recruitment was put on the back burner in the mid/late 90s, and now, they're suffering for it.

But things like Ad Grads, Ant's post, the Rise of the Ronin, and some of my own recent experiences seem to paint a better picture for the future; that agencies realise they have to wise up if they are going to nuture and cultivate the best talent.

Indeed, the best HR people/Global Talent Managers are fantastic; they keep you informed about what's happening, and will go out of their way to make sure you are the right fit. It's the phone calls from someone I've never spoken to and general hands off approach that makes me cross.

And God knows, bonuses in the City are large enough to dissuade a lot of the best at the moment, so now, more than ever, agencies have got to fight tooth and claw to get the cream.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Why a little swagger's a good thing..

Liam Gallagher - model for graduates? Picture via freschwill. Usual rules, etc.

This was sort of inspired by something I wrote on Ad Grads and a bit of thinking, so bear with me.

Despite claims of having eclectic tastes in music, I do find myself listening to very similar stuff after a while - there's a lot of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Smashing Pumpkins and Manics on there; check my Last FM out.

And perhaps it's no surprise that indie music, and obviously, Britpop has had a bloody big influence on my musical tastes - I was 11 when What's The Story came out, after all.

Of course, being that age, and having that album as one of my first 'proper' musical purchases meant that I fell head over heels in love with the image conveyed by the music - the links with football, the look, the way of singing; even the North/South divide that went on at the time - to this day I still can't understand how Blur were ever seen as being a rival to the mighty Oasis. Truly, What's The Story was the album of my generation - I don't think I know someone of my age who can't sing along to at least one song from that album, right from start to finish.

Now, I grew up, and shed a lot of this. And, being honest, I think Liam Gallagher's a bit of a plonker. But there's still something in me which makes me want to buy their next album, however rubbish it may turn out to be.

And I was thinking about this the other day, asking why this is. Well, barring happy nostalgic memories of that time, I think a lot of it is to do with the unbridled confidence and swagger that fills that album and Definitely Maybe before it.

Now, I've written about passion in another post before this, but this, to me, is somewhat different.

Passion, to me, denotes wanting to do the best you can - and it's an admirable trait in whomever possesses it. It's why, I think, advertising tends to be a young profession, because when the passion dwindles, there's only so interested you can be in selling various products/services, and having to be 'up' for the next pitch or new business.

Now swagger is something which, if you believe the reports about Generation Y, my g-g-generation has. And it's not, necessarily, a good trait to possess in the eyes of many. I've written about this before, about how we, as a generation, are bloody demanding.

Whilst not being an pompous, swaggering arsehole is obviously very important clearly pace of change is increasing, and brands are being made (and broken) on the basis of what they believe in. And damn, gen Y knows what IT believes in - its own opinions, and ability to take matters into its own hands.

And, though I'd never suggest that people who read this blog turn into little Liam Gallaghers, the point of this post is simply to suggest that music like this is what an awful lot of my generation were bred on; it's a damn good cultural signifier as to how they'll behave. And I think marketeers and advertisers would have a better time of things if they realised that they, and their products and services need to have a little bit of an Oasis-like swagger, a declaration of intent if they want to be around for years to come.

This declaration of intent is very similar to what Mark says in Herd - people, and brands should begin by stating what they believe in.

Don't believe me? Well, consider this. Be Here Now was the biggest selling album in UK chart history. While not the defining album What's The Story was, it's telling. If you can get people to believe in swagger, you'll do very well indeed (of course, the cautionary tale to all of this is that critically, it was a massive flop - it seems that believing the hype about your own swagger is bloody dangerous).

I'll leave you with some lyrics from D'you Know What I Mean. They are telling...

Look into the wall of my mind's eye
I think I know, but I don't know why
Questions of the answers you might need

Comin' in a mess, going out in style
I ain't good lookin', but I'm someone's child
No one can give me the air that's mine to breathe

I met my maker, I made him cry
And on my shoulder, he asked me why
As people won't fly through the storm
I said listen up now, we don't even know you're born

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Helicopters and how you see the world..

Look, a Chinook. Via SierraHiker. Usual rules apply.

One of the great mysteries of this business is how management speak infiltrated the ad world. Mostly bollocks, of course (drilling down, to me, still sounds like some peculiar sexual deviation), but there's one term I actually quite like, and thought I'd write about.

Namely, taking a helicopter view of something.

For those who can't be bothered to click on the link, it relates to a 'general outline or an overview' of something - say a brand, a positioning, and so forth.

For those of you choking on your bourbon (or ginger nut, if you go in for that sort of thing - and I do, mmm), bear with me.

I love nuanced brand thinking. I loved, absolutely adored the Rayban 'Never Hide' virals (one found here), which was shown to me by Messrs Frith and Law, via the wonders of t'internet. And yes, it was phenomenally successful for Rayban. But that's not to say it'll be enjoyed, much less adopted, by the vast majority of the population. Nope.

What I want to contest is that for all the nuanced, brilliantly crafted thinking in the world , there's a place for the more generalised, 'helicopter view' work, and just thinking in general.

I mean, look at the way I see big, global, worldwide brand ideas. I may not see them precisely in the same way as Fredrik does (though I love the last three diagrams), but instead more like this analogy.

Good big, global brand ideas are a lot like painting by numbers. The framework is there, but they don't make sense until they are reinterpreted by whichever agency is trying to do the work in the local market (and why would they? The best work is almost always local - I can't remember the last bit of global work which made my jaw drop).

I think the point Rob makes in the comments of Fredrik's blog is telling..agencies shouldn't try to reinterpret the 'outline' of the idea - that is, mess about with what should be set in stone.

No, they should take the (aha, it links!) helicopter view of the problem. Realise that there are certain lines of protocol (read - brand guidelines) which shouldn't be broken. Honestly, at times, I can't say I blame clients for getting pissy when agencies want to tweak their global brand positioning - by all means slap local interpretation on top of it, but don't mess with a globally aligned bit of thinking which is essential to the whole worldwide campaign making sense.

And the 'helicopter view' is true of job descriptions and employers, it would seem. I hate the terms strategist (how can you be a strategist when, as Rory notes, your grand strategy is binned after 18 months?), comms planner (isn't EVERYTHING comms?) , channel planner (ah, so I don't plan in channels?) and integrated planner (if a planner wasn't integrated, I'd worry about his/her job).

I'd steadfastly refuse to be put into a box when it comes to that sort of thing - speaking personally, I am a planner. I plan. It doesn't matter which channel - headhunters and employers note; if I've done work on digital campaigns, or ATL, it doesn't mean I'm going to be that for the rest of my career.

It may be a bit of a broad brushstroke, but Christ - the helicopter view, in my opinion, is right when it comes to my job description. I will specialise in something (and we all know I don't like the abuse of the term creative generalism much), but I'm sure I can be trusted to plan in other disciplines - in much the same way as 'traditional' creatives can work on a digital campaign.

Phew. Got a bit ranty there for a second...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Money, Money Moooney...Moooooney..

I'd quite like one of these when I grow up. Courtesy of Mat Skull. Usual rules apply.

Or, otherwise titled 'When cashflow goes bad'.

Ahem. Anyway...when I was in University, one of my flatmates decided that he wanted to be an Actuary. Given that he's probably the brightest mathematician I know (and this includes a chap at Merrill Lynch), it seemed to make sense. His overall life goal was to - I kid you not - to own and swim in a Scrooge McDuck esque Money Bin.

A pretty fair ambition, if a little bit fantastic. You're probably wondering what this has to do with the post. Well, yesterday, I had a couple of financial realisations, and how they impact on my behaviour.

1) I'm pretty poor at the moment. Sadly, freelancing doesn't quite cover all of my living expenses (yes, I really needed that goldplated bookmark). And as you may or may not know, you need money to live - especially to truly experience a great city like London. So this lack of funds is a bit of a pest, to be honest - especially when I'm poorer than I was as a student.

And yes, it does impact on what I do at the moment. Which I detest. Still, I'm reminded of the Fight Club quote "It's only after you've lost everything that you're free to do anything". I may not have lost everything, but this period of my life has certainly helped give me perspective.

I hate being beholden to anyone, hate being in debt, and hate feeling like I'm one shopping trip away from living in someone's pockets. It could be argued that I'm living the plot of Keep The Aspidistra Flying, which would be hugely ironic, as it's my favourite book ever. It has helped strengthen my resolve - I'm not going to get sucked into any truly bad financial situations, and hear me now, I'll make a success of things. Just you wait and see.

2) Being 'close to the money' is damned scary. Marcus's post about this really resonated with me. You see, I have another confession to make. From a comparatively young age, I've had an idea of the financial rumblings at my father's agency. And after having a conversation with him yesterday, to say it put my own worries into perspective would be pretty fair.

This really strikes a chord with me, and this kind of financial osmosis is why I'm so happy to be a part of Ad Grads (apparently we got into Campaign today - woo hoo!). If I can impart on graduates the importance of having an idea of just what financial pressures are at play in an ad agency, well, then the blog will have partly have done its job.

Advertising is not just London (much as I love the London ad scene). And in some ways, being aware that London is a little bubble, with clients willing to spend big on the latest ad/social networking trend, and that, if you get in, you're damned privileged...well, that should be said to everyone. Realising that cash is the deciding factor behind everything is a lesson everyone should learn. Bluntly, we are all here to shift product.

Essentially, money breeds cold hard reality. But it also breeds unreal expectations, and the sooner those are kept in check, the better.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

It's funny, the more I practice, the luckier I get...

The great Gary Player, possibly the best bunker player ever. The picture's from justaregularbloke. Usual rules, etc.

Regular, or astute readers will know that I hold golf very dear to my heart (yes, I'm actually 55, just masquerading as a 23 year old). I think only Dino and myself play the game on the plannersphere. The above quote is from one of the greats of the game, Gary Player, and it came about when a journalist asked him how he was so good out of bunkers.

It's a classic. And very true, and relevant to a lot of how I think people should be generally.

I'm crap at drawing. But I bet you that if I practiced (yes, Zero, I'll get round to it eventually), I'd get much much better. It's that fear of failing (and not having a lot of time at the moment) which keeps me from doing more.

And that's a nonsense, when you think about it. How the hell can I talk about something, say discuss creative thinking, when I've never ever really tried to do it myself? I mean, I can talk with some reasonable authority on the topic of web design and HTML, as my belaboured efforts in the mid 90s (now happily lost in the mists of AOL Press and Altavista) show. I might not be able to code properly, but at least I can root my thinking and discussion in something.

Now, I'm all for people trying for integration in agencies (even though, at times, it risks being a massively overused buzz word, up there with viral and web 2.0). But for God's sake, don't try and tell me you're an integrated planner/account handler/creative if you've never ever done what you claim to be integrated in yourself - knowing the mechanics of DM, being aware/having tried coding of some description, and most importantly, knowing how businesses work. Most people are culpable of this. Indeed, I think planners (and junior planners, in particular - I include myself in this critique) spend too much time in the theoretical and not enough time in the practical.

It's why I praise artists, account handlers and people who have to physically deliver the goods. Sure, I can spout Barthesian theory, come up with convoluted theories about twitter, or debate, ad infinitum, about where the agency model is going. But it matters not a jot if I've not done the legwork beforehand. Physically gone and seen how different cultures live, act and are, along with people in different jobs. No, I'm not contending that I should spend a year learning the intricacies of, say a job clientside which is wholly different to what I'm going to do in my job.

But I completely reject the notion that a simple factory visit, say, is enough to get under the skin of how a product is made - it's like me watching some Spanish language TV and claiming to be able to speak fluent Spanish on the back of it. No, no no. Just not true.

Ultimately, you have to be able to do more than empathise. You have to be able to have done, or at least attempted things. And keep doing them. THAT'S what makes a good planner, or indeed 'Wannabe Ad Man', whatever the stage in their career.

It's partly why I want to play a big part in Ad Grads, a blog I'm helping co-author. I don't want a generation of ad folk to live in the theoretical, especially those who look at planning and think 'ah yes, that sounds pretty hands off - I could do that'. Getting your hands dirty and learning from a wide range of sources should be prized like never before, especially given media's divergence. If you can actually say 'oh, I've coded x' or 'Yeah, I can illustrate Y' as an account handler, say, it should be oh so useful. And THOSE people will change the industry. Not some cliche driven, marketing buzz word ad wannabe.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Here's to you, Account Handlers...

Max Clifford: The ultimate account handler? Thanks to ijazphoto, usual rules apply.

Frankly, I'm a little tired of hearing/reading about how planners are the next rock Gods, saviours of the agency world and generally, would end world hunger if they just produced a big enough pie chart.

No, today, I want to focus on those who represent the agency, the account handlers.

In the digital landgrab that is blogging, twittering and other such mediums, they've been curiously silent, or so it would seem. Well, why's this a surprise?

And no, it's not what the more cynically minded would have it - 'they've got nothing to say'. Bollocks. Absolute toss, in fact. That sort of view makes me angry. Unlike we planners, with our occasional ivory tower world view - hell, we're paid to think, for the most part - account handlers have to ALWAYS be on the go, multi-tasking constantly. It's no surprise not many of them are blogging (barring the indefatigable Nicola Davies - her blog's great).

I know this, partly because I was a damnably awful account handler. My worrying nature meant that even when I got the job right, I'd still be concerned that it was wrong, and occasionally the opposite would happen - I'd not get the job right because I wasn't worried about precisely how it would look.

But I'm so glad I had that experience. Because it makes me realise just what a skill it is to be a good account handler, and makes me more empathetic when they've got to deal face to face with a very difficult client. Sure, planning has to meet clients - but not to the same degree as account management.

And the job is hard, hard work. Especially, it seems to me, at junior levels. At it's worst, you get shat on by all and sundry, and have little to no input into the strategic direction of the campaign. And God knows, I know enough bright account handlers who have become planners. But I'd like to try and stem the tide, at least slightly.

For the best account handlers (and believe me, the job gets more strategic as you become more senior) are the rocks on which new agencies are founded. CHI and DLKW both have been phenomenally successful, due in a large part to their account handling prowess (yes, the strategic and creative departments have had a lot to do with it as well). If you can sell, are charming (and know what's going on all over the place) there's always a place for you, at any agency.

And it's a fantastic job if you like meeting new people, challenging clients, representing the agency's interests, and generally being a bloody good salesman, able to paint pictures in clients' minds (hopefully without overpromising, the cardinal sin). You'll go very very far.

I just hope we as in industry don't paint a picture of account management as a glorious pipedream - surely, by being honest and saying 'yes, you do have to do a lot of photocopying in the beginning' is the way to approach matters; some naive stereotype is not the way to go about things.

NB: I've always preferred the term account handler - I don't quite subscribe to the belief that accounts can be fully managed; real life is always too chaotic for that. Heh.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Everyone Loves Music (And Podcasts)

There may be violin. I just don't know. Thanks GBST Ron, usual rules apply.

Eh? Don't you?

Well, you can't say that this blog doesn't live to give from time to time.

Yes, it's that time when I bore you with music (or excite you?).

Anyway, happy Wednesday, because here are all of my podcasts for you (including the newest, the 7th):

Oh No Cucumber Sandwiches 1

Oh No Cucumber Sandwiches 2

Oh No Cucumber Sandwiches 3

Oh No Cucumber Sandwiches 4

Oh No Cucumber Sandwiches 5

Oh No Cucumber Sandwiches 6

Oh No Cucumber Sandwiches 7

You can, of course, just scroll down and click on the little men who drum to listen to it from this webpage, if you'd like. But if you want one to take home with you, click on the links. I think there's a limit on the amount of downloads you can make in a day - but hell, surely too much music means you don't appreciate it? Heh.

Also, if you want to know the tracklisting, here it is...(but it is a little like finding out what you got for Christmas, eh?)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Craft skills and a man named Smithy..

A Matthew Smith original. Used by permission.

This is going to be a bit of a rant, a bit of a thought..(aren't they all?)

Right. Craft skills. People talk a good game about these, but really what I think they're trying to say is that advertising, branding and most things in life should be about having actual talent at things - people who can write well, draw, make things, are technologists etc. I'm going to talk about drawing and visualisation.

I have no talent at drawing. None whatsoever. It's worse than my legendarily bad handwriting (which looks like a combination between a drunken, half blind spider, a spirograph and a seismograph). Whilst I'd like to think that I can think vaguely visually, I'm a wordy person at heart. That said, I know that being able to actually draw is going to become damned important.

Not just being a photoshop wizard (though that's obviously damned important).

And I'd like to draw your attention to two people who are pretty damned fine at drawing, visualisation, and all the bits inbetween.

One is Cookie (Simon Cook). Cookie works at Poke London, and is fantastically talented. I urge you all to subscribe to his blog, just to see (in addition to what new work he uncovers on a daily basis) his work. I'm a big fan (especially the Alexisms - pure genius). someone I went to school with, actually. He's an illustrator called Matthew Smith. His blog is here, and some of his work can be found here and here. Like Cookie, he loves nothing more than finding new pieces of work, which he posts to his blog. Damned brilliant - especially for a muggins like me, who knows nada about comics really.

Also, unlike Cookie, I know Matt in real life (he was a 'real' friend before blogging - good lord). Matt was one of those fantastically talented guys who drew great illustrations as an aside during Sixth Form English lessons, in addition to reading the odd bit of Shakespeare.

It's these kind of skills that I'm particularly envious of...and those I hope, won't leave the wider advertising world - we need people like these two. Having a way with words, I think, won't ever leave the business; but people who can draw....well, they are worth their weight in gold.

So yes, whenever I talk about craft skills, I'm really looking at people who can draw with green-eyed envy. Keep it up gents.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Congratulations, a Good Luck, and a New Venture..

Thanks to Narunaka. Usual rules apply.

This is going to be short and sweet.

Nina (of Too Small To Be Big) has just got herself a new gig. So congratulations. Lauren (of SheSeesRed) has had a successful viewing of her installation at Spinach. Very well done to you - I also have a photo of the sweary artist addressing the audience, which will be up on my Flickr at some point..

Good luck to Marcus Brown in his new venture, The Ides of March. Anyone who reads this blog who doesn't know Marcus (not many, I wouldn't have thought) should know that he's incredibly perceptive, a fantastic writer, and a very, very bright. I think he's going to do really well.

Finally...a new venture. I've begun to co-write a blog for grads, which can be found here. Sam & Anton from the Ad Lads are helping, along with Jack Bauer from the Brand Republic Forums. We'll be detailing our experiences, and asking some other people (yes, you) to help contribute and guest post.

You can find it here.
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