Sunday, December 28, 2008

Shortcrust Pastry Is Best...

Percentage of pie to pacman...mmm. Photo via watashwasi. Usual rules apply.

This is rapidly turning into a festive flurry (see what I did there) of posts.

Anyway. This is a semi serious post on the topic of transmedia (or brand story telling mixed in with a little bit of anarchy) and what it can do with three bored twitterers (whose blogs are here) and a brand property.

As you probably know, Paul was behind Don Draper on twitter. It was genius, because of the characterisation, and because he got a whole host of other 'characters' to follow him (who have yet to reveal themselves). There were an awful lot of intertwining dialogues between the characters, and it was great fun. Exactly what brands should be doing on twitter, if they choose to - yes, I do think they belong, but with a few caveats.

Namely, that it doesn't come across as too 'brandy'. I don't just want to hear about promotions (unless you are or Dell), or the absolute minutae about an uninteresting job. Be compelling, or be fictional.

And it is with that sentiment in mind that I happened along the last tweet from our Don. This happened to correspond with Zero's desire to start a twitter bar fight. A notable intention, i'm sure you'll agree.

So, putting two and two together, we got Mr Draper involved (check mine, Zeros and Nick's tweets from late last night). Sorry Betty, Don's not coming home for supper. He IS supper.

As damned funny as it was (and check the blips out, they made me smile), I think it's an interesting lesson for brands. Put your characters out in the public domain, but be prepared for loyal fans getting really involved, knowing more than you - and just sometimes, making a chicken and mushroom pie, with a 1952 piece of meat.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Semantics, Recession and Merging..

Really is as simple as that. Picture via Torkveen, usual rules apply.


That meme thing has prompted me to write something proper. That's right, with real grammar and punctuation. Maybe even with some proper spelling. WARNING: There'll definitely be some ranting.

Like almost every person in an agency environment (whether it be PR, Digital, Advertising or Meeja), I've been asked a lot of questions about recession and the nature of it - and for any useful case studies (all of which is vaguely useless, as every recession will be markedly different from the last one - it's like asking someone to compare each grain of sand on a beach).

Ogilvy have had a stab at it, and I applaud them for their efforts. It saves me a job, at any rate, which is always welcome. However, when your clients may well go bust tomorrow, they don't really worry about that - more about whether the EU will follow America's lead. It puts status meetings and fucking stupid brand onions into context.

Of course, a lot of people view this recession as the door being opened for those who are entrepreneurial and future facing. And in both PR and Advertising, a strange beast has arisen. One that claims to be digital, ad focused and interested in 'talkability' and 'advocacy', those two buzzwords which have been comfortably powering the internet and comms in general since before Altavista stopped being the dominant browser.

I'm talking, of course, about the Social Media Agency. It's a bit of a hydra in the world of communications. While I'm a fully paid up believer in the power of social media, and of an overall communications agency, I have a bit of an issue with the term and the agencies I've seen.

First of all - surely every successful piece of communications should aim at advocacy, and achieve it, either subliminally (low involvement processing, anyone?) or actively through talking and recommending it to people.

Communication is inherently social. Duh. Otherwise it wouldn't be communication. As Mark has repeatedly emphasised, we're social animals.

So with this in mind, let's pick apart what a social media offers other than this. From what I can see (and I've been contacted by one or two through this blog), it amounts to emailing bloggers to ask them whether they'd consider writing about the next big ad/product/event that's going on.

Again - isn't that the job of the shoddy PR agency that hasn't done its homework? What some try to sell as 'Digital PR'? Or some gimp in an Ad agency who doesn't know what he's doing?

Ok, so that doesn't wash. Let's have another think. Oh yes, mastery of the latest social media techniques and software. Err, right. I work for what some outside observers would call a 'traditional' ad agency, yet I know what's going on in new launches....the failure of Pownce, the usefulness of Remember The Milk or how Last.FM's new menu doesn't seem as user friendly as the last one. And as for the software point - WTF? The whole POINT of social media is that it's easy to use, and EVERYONE can use it....

Right. Maybe some love can be found in measurement. Last time I checked, no-one (even you, NPS, much as you're not too bad) had found a golden metric which goes all the way through, nor judges which part of the mix was the most useful. Social media metrics are notoriously ropey as well - so a lot of people signed up online. And? Did sales increase? That last question buggers most.

So really, on the face of it - most of this is either already done by the PR, Advertising, Media or Digital agency...who each have specialisms of their own.

Come on then Social Media Agencies; either call yourself communications agencies or do something which can't be done. I don't see evidence of the latter at the moment. I wonder, with the recession, whether they'll prosper - as clients need to compartmentalise spend, will it make more sense to give them little bits of budget to ring fence as their own, or will they all get truly fucked by the other agencies? Something's got to give.

My true rage is at the term, in all honesty. There are good agencies who call themselves 'Social Media', and do get digital comms and advertising. But to claim yourself as masters of the conversation is the height of arrogance. That's like me blindly assuming my consumer on a well known American car brand is a Texan cowboy and nothing else, who'll buy out of habit. Misguided and foolish, really.

I think JC makes a good point on this topic. The Digital and Analogue argument must definitely die. As he puts it: "the big winners will be those who can mix the proven strengths of the old with the innovation of the new. The ability to deliver that double-whammy will be the only thing worth measuring." Damn straight. And the 'new' Social Media agencies haven't done this. Yet.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Resolution Taggage..

Not mine. Though I like 1 and the last statement. Via Gillian. Usual rules apply.

I've been tagged again in one of those meme things. (Have actually been tagged in 3 odd, but sod it, this'll answer them all, hopefully) by Nick.

So then, shall I answer this personally, or about work? Ah, I'll do both. Starting with worky stuff...

1) Write an APG Paper. If I was entirely honest with myself, i'm not as left brained as i'd like to be. So, being commended by Marketing Week for an effectiveness paper I cowrote for one of my clients was very pleasing. So, I need to get one out for the APG, and I have an idea of what it might be, if the project moves quickly enough...

2) Get back into the habit of writing strategic 'sentences'. One of the things I used to do at United, which I've not really done at Lowe, was to pick a random brand, have a think about what their business or category problem was, write their brand position, their promise, and the brand idea arising for that. NOT a proposition, it could serve as an endline, or just a tone of voice for the brand to think about. It was all Richard's doing, and I really liked it. I had moleskines full of these, and they were always good for getting the juices going.

3) Do one cultural thing a week. Whether it's the Saatchi Gallery across the way, or the Tate, I need to keep expanding my mind. I'm not much of a scrapbook person, but getting as many different experiences as possible is always a good thing. Likewise, I went to the Nutcracker recently and loved it - I should try to see more ballet this year.

4) Continue to think beyond advertising. It's oh so easy to think, working for an ad agency which has such a good reputation in creating big, largely TV led campaigns, that that's what we should be doing. Unquestionably good for a lighthouse effect, it's not always the right idea, no matter what overzealous clients/media agencies/agency teams think. We've bought a stake in a new digital agency, have some interest in PR, and I think the future's bright. No excuse, really. :)

5) Continue to develop AdGrads. We've built a great community, have been chuffed to have the support of BrandRepublic and others, and to have met some really cool folks along the way. We'd relish the opportunity to speak at a few Universities, to link up with some programmes abroad (such as VCU et al) and to continue to be as useful as possible. We're in this because we think advertising (and comms in general) needs to improve its recruitment policy; especially if it wants to remain competitive in the long run.

6) Not become a comms wanker. Sometimes this one is harder than it seems - but damned if i'm going to suggest media ideas which are just London focused, use bullshit bingo terms, pretend the south east is the centre of the world (or the UK ad scene, for that matter) or swallow new trends hook line and sinker. I may sound like a Surrey schoolboy, but not talking (too much) bollocks is part of my Midlander USP. ;)

Now for some 'others':

1) Write more. And by that, I don't mean blogging. I mean begin to write fiction again. I've got a lovely new place, and when I've bought a good writing desk (suggestions, anyone?), I should really write more. Being by the Thames will help, I think. I find water very inspiring (as opposed to the grimy nature of Old St), and I have no excuses now.

2) Get back into the habit of gyming. I play 5-a-side football once a week, but it's not enough. I don't particularly want to look like Daniel Craig, just less like an elastic band.

3) Start playing golf again. It's expensive, it's time consuming, it drives me insane and makes me angry, but I love it. I hear there's a course in Dulwich, and a range in Croydon. Will be sampling both soon enough...

4) Attempt to play an instrument (guitar probably). Not Guitar Hero, but I'd love to learn to play something. And not annoy my flatmates. No idea if I have any talent, but i've always been told I have the fingers of a pianist, so I should learn something, just to see if they help...

5) Save more cash. Setting myself up in my new flat/going to Oz (post forthcoming on that bad boy) hasn't helped, but putting some money away for a house/flat is probably a good idea. That, or winning the lottery...

Phew. I tag Seb, Nina, Lauren, Angus and Sammy I.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A little rugby viral action for you all..

Back when we could play the game. Picture via BombDog. Usual rules apply.

Short and sweet post, this one. We've put together a viral for the RFU, which talks about the Oxford and Cambridge varsity match. I think Dan and Mark will find this funny.

Taking famous historical characters who (may) have turned out for their rugby teams, below is the result. It's a bit of fun. Made me smile, anyway...

Nice work Ben & Seb, our newest creative team.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Bullshit Bingo and the web..

It happens. Oh yes. Click to see more. Thanks to Saltation. Usual rules etc.

Everybody surely knows about bullshit bingo by now. All of those silly words which somehow manage to find their way into common parlance. Words like 'drill down' to take a 'helicopter view' (actually makes a degree of sense, but is damned odd) have found their way into speech.

God knows, I found myself saying I should look at a brief to 'sense check' it the other day. I think i'm losing the plot a little.

That said, I think when anyone's talking about the web, it gets infinitely worse (and I'm just as culpable as most when doing this). It also gets infinitely worse when people are in the presence of clients - in an attempt to justify the fee, maybe? - using the word crowdsourcing in polite society may well deserve a mild flogging.

Photo via Barry_Adams. Usual rules apply.

These aren't even the best ones. Which terrible examples have you witnessed at work?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Two videos.. via Marta Crowe

It's a funny thing, the t'terweb. Leave it alone for a little while, and it suddenly sneaks up on you and updates thousands and thousands of RSS feeds. Cheeky.

Anyway, I've been alerted to two highly amusing videos. One of which is intentionally hilarious. The other that isn't (and is curiously like a Eurovision entrance).

See if you can figure out which is which. The first is just off a linky. Click and see. T'other is just below:

So so funny, eh? In case you hadn't figured out which I thought was just a little bit sad (though comedic), it was the agency themed one. Why oh why do agencies do this sort of thing, eh? There's so much interesting stuff they could show and share with the general public barring their output, but they choose not to.

Christ knows you could use a good agency video to sell the agency rather than some tired PowerPoint preso. It's just a shame some people believe this has to involve *shudders* singing.

(Before you ask - no, I'm not singing a song in honour of our Frank).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Best bit of meeja this year + Brand Promises..

For me, it still tastes a little like Cherry Coke..

I'm a big fan of brands, like people, coming through on their promises. So this proclamation from the head of Dr Pepper made me very happy indeed. He's basically promised that if Guns 'N' Roses finish their long awaited (some 13 years in the making, I believe) album, Chinese Democracy.

Check out what their Vice President of Marketing said: "We never thought this day would come. But now that it's here, all we can say is 'The Dr Pepper is on us'".

Absolutely classic. Sadly it's only in the US. Have a look at the linky.

And in other, brand related warblings, I've got to give a meeja shoutout to whomever was the media agency involved with IKEA (NB: I think it was Mediacom, but I could be wrong - anyone know?). The strategy of home being the most important place in the world (a nice thought and very relevant in today's economic times, where people are naturally inclined to nest) is amplified by this clever piece of media.

Who hasn't seen these in London? They could do them nationwide if they wanted's a thought which could run and
run. Very clever. So different to the amount of prosiac media thinking out there - the best media isn't always conventional...

Friday, October 03, 2008

Conflict & Brands..

Get your brand to do this.

It's been a while since I decided to share a few cheeky pearls of wisdom (!) with my wider audience.

And hell, I've decided to share it on the topic of fighting. Yes, having a bloody good scrap. Too much planning is passive, quiet and muted, keen to step quietly into the night.

Great planning (and great brand ideas) are all about conflict. How it's resolved - and how the monster can be slain. Hat tip to Adam Morgan for the thought about Monsters, picked up after going to Wednesday's IPA Fast Strategy conference.

So have a butchers. You might have to view full screen to see some of the smaller type...Let me know what you think:

Conflict & Brands
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own.

Monday, September 29, 2008

IPA Night of The Ad Eaters..

There they via Mr. Whisper. Usual rules apply.

A few IPA related bits and bobs to tell you about (this should probably go on AdGrads, but still).

This event looks interesting. Facebook page is here. All being well, muggins here will be there (I like Short & Sweet as well, but it's not an IPA affiliated event).

The lovely Adah at the IPA has also informed me about the following events at London Universities (a few of which are in the past...oops, should have blogged it sooner):

FRIDAY, 26 September
Goldsmiths, Freshers' Fayre, Students' Union Building, 1:30 - 2:30pm

UCL 3pm - 4pm Entrance: Wilkins Building, North Cloisters

TUESDAY 30th September
London Metropolitan University - City Campus at 84 Moorgate, London EC2M 6SQ
lunch time

WEDNESDAY, 1st October
University of the Arts at the Truman Brewery 4pm till 6pm

FRIDAY, 3rd October
Westminster University, Harrow Freshers Fayre, Sports hall, 2:30-3:30pm

Worth popping along to one of them, if you're keen to get into this crazy bidness...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Stop what you are doing...

The great man himself. Antonio Damasio. Hero.

Those of you who read my twitter or blip stream (thanks to Iain for pointing the latter out, it's great) will know I've been on my hollybobs for a little while.

But, in addition to brushing up on my Hemingway (Moveable Feast is a great read - should really have a butchers at some more of his work; not quite sure why I haven't yet), I've done a classic plannerly thing.

Yes, that's right, not being content with the typical holiday reading, I thought I might try my hand at some of the more planner-centric texts which are doing the rounds at the moment. The first was me finally reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb's 'Black Swan'. I can understand why so many planners and people within comms are so fascinated by it; for someone (who was a former head of deratives/a very talented mathematician/philosopher - a polymath in the true sense of the word) to come out and criticise how much we think we know, and how, in his terms, 'Platonicity', is a mistake.

Essentially, through a series of case studies, Taleb dismisses the idea that the world is so straightforward, so easily quantifiable as we'd like it to be, and this blinds us from ever considering extreme random acts (the Popper inspired 'Black Swans'). It's very interesting, and I liked the bits about fractals (images which appear solid, but when looked at closely, are actually entirely different) and his belief in Benoit Mandelbrot to show the way - have a look at this:

Pretty amazing, eh? Makes you more aware of what you do, and how post-rationalisation seems to be just as bunk as, privately, people believed it is.

Anyway, I digress. On with the subject of the nice chap in the first photo. Mr Damasio, to be precise. I was alerted to him after reading Paul Feldwick's piece on 'Fifty Years Using The Wrong Model of Advertising', as he had some interesting things to say about Damasio there.

Namely, that he doesn't separate rational thought from emotional responses. The title of his book (Descartes' Error) was a bit of a giveaway, but yes, given his background in neurology, he uses a lot of examples to explain it to the average layman. It's not quite so user friendly as Taleb's book, but when he chooses to focus on some of the case studies (Phineas Gage is particularly fascinating), the book gets really interesting.

It helps to make sense of why certain patients with certain types of brain damage can seem to be just fine mentally, but in fact have their personalities change as they get older and develop. Interestingly, he raises the notion that parts of the brain work in conjunction with each other, so this can happen.

A good summary is below (it's not Damasio speaking - not sure who, but it's interesting):

And as to how this relates to the planning day job (or indeed, how both of them do). Well, bluntly, both argue for more emotional appeals to people, as their emotions (and subsequent randomness) are commonplace. Far more than all the people in all the groups in all the brands you'll ever work on. We should be producing work that stirs people into thinking with their heads and their hearts at the same time (because it's what they do).

So yes, bloody useful (if complicated) fodder for the day job. If you're in the least bit interested in what makes people tick (and can stand the self-righteousness of Taleb), read 'em both. Now...

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Pharrell and Tabula Rasa..

He is a little scamp, isn't he?

This post could have been entitled ‘Coming through my drive through’, but I thought that too many people would get a little bit overexcited. You know who you are.

Onwards. Converse have just launched an initative called 'Three artists, one song' to promote their association with all different sorts of muzak. From indie to hip hop, it appears to be all there. Have a listen:

You can download that bad boy from the Converse site as well, if you like it. The work's courtesy of Anomaly.

Tabula rasa, for those of you not bothered enough by it to use Wikipedia, is a concept which suggests that we are born with no innate memories at all – that we are uniquely a product of our experiences. Stephen Pinker disagrees with it, as it happens. Fine, all well and good, you might ask. So – what the hell does this have to do with Mr NERD?

Thinking about it further, I think it’s obvious that we are the product of our earliest days. It’s why I’m still so fond of Graceland, why I feel no shame in having read (and re-read) books like Fantastic Mr Fox or The Whitby Witches. And this, in turn, is why African music and macabre humour still plays a great role in my emotions and thoughts.

And if we accept this (that we're essentially a blank slate when we're born), it would make sense to assume that someone who has the ability to tug on a wide variety of interests, someone with this polymathic ability such as Pharrell (with a healthy dollop of just generally being a cool guy), can still really cut through.He’s not nailed to a precise genre. Being unclassifiable means that he doesn’t fall into any of the traps that the average celebrity does when they advertise a certain sort of product, or why he’s a PR man’s wet dream; simply put, he’s a swiss army knife celeb.

Now, I’m not quite so convinced that Julian Casablancas is like this – he’s a rich bugger already who, whilst cool, isn’t the polymath in the same way that someone like Pharrell is. He doesn’t really represent the brand of Converse in the ad/music video. He’s too one dimensional, as far as I can see. An indie singer with an interesting (some might say awful) voice.

So perhaps it’s fairly evident. If you are a brand which is founded on the notion of customisability, of allowing people to play, and, as a result, get emotional with your product or service, then using a 360’, deep and thoroughly multi-skilled and recombinant thinker and do-er like Pharrell makes sense.

Hell, even if the brand was comparatively mundane, he’d work much better than the average celeb, simply because he can’t be defined, and has a much greater chance of garnering an emotional response from us; making us (as Feldwick says - caution, opens a pdf), more likely to buy a product/service/thing.

Of course, it obviously matters that the song is damned fantastic, and that the content is just generally able to be used as an ad/viral/music video (some of the executions don't use the Converse signoff). Engaging emotional content (either through what it says or celebrity associations) will always have a home in any comms mix.

It’s just bloody expensive to buy up these multi-talented folk, and just as costly to use less-skilled celebs for a product which doesn’t really fit with the association. But the dartboard does get bigger the more talented the person who endorses the product is. More likely to tweak an emotional response, more likely to buy the product. Easy, eh?
Well, maybe not. What happens if you don't want to use a celebrity, and your product is either functional or just dull as ditchwater?

Certainly, no amount of celebrity endorsement or clever seeding will lead to a rise in sales. In fact, you might as well be using your product as a doorstop, for all the good it would seem to do you (and I think celebrity endorsements, if handled wrongly, can be bloody dangerous).
I think in that case, it's time for a good old fashioned form of tabula rasa; the blank sheet of paper. Use it to answer why (through focus groups/intelligent, focused media), and you can easily compete with some of the sexier brands.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

What do I have to know?

A Hungarian chap looking pensive. Cheers Gaby/Crumplestiltskin.

There's a very real trait in the planning world to gaze, thoughtfully, at one's navel for what seems like a very long time. And I'm just as guilty as most when it comes to this. Sitting around and not doing quite what I should be doing, thinking about the consequences far ahead of the actual event. Which, in itself, can be hugely paralyzing. And not that useful.

Most of this lies in the economic uncertainty that most readers will be familiar with (if you aren't, stop reading this blog immediately and go and have a look at the FT, or the Beeb) - bluntly, wondering what the advertising world is likely to look like when it all hits in the next 6 months to a year. Whether this'll increase the fragmentation of the entire communication industry, and help speed it up (privately, I think it will, and I bet we'll see a rise in the number of 'communications agencies' who used to be PR/Advertising/Integrated shops).

So, this leads me to wonder just what skills will actually be of use in the next five to ten years. God knows, skills like rigorous analysis of data (whether it's qual/quant or otherwise) will still be of interest. And so will creative (though, again, whether we'll have more designers, people who know how to actually make things, and web ninjas.

Part of the nature of most planners, I think, is to want to know more about anything and everything. Turning this off is often quite difficult, especially when you are trying to balance much-needed reductive behaviour with your desire to open 15 tabs, and 5 of them are work related - the other 10 are open because you, like the net equivalent of collecting bits of string, think 'it'll be useful'.

I was having a very interesting conversation the other day with Jon Leach (formerly planning supremo of HHCL, now head of planning at Chime), about the nature of conversations, and how a lot (particularly ad agencies) of comms agencies don't wish to engage with the conversations that're going on around them, and how so many of them are pretty bad at engaging the general public/promoting themselves. And this, in short, can turn out to be death. Track your conversations - don't worry about squeezing out another 30 second spot which either won't engage or will be ignored by the general public. I'm reminded of this quote from his blog:

"If you had the choice of bringing your friends or your books to a desert island, we'd call you a sociopath if you took the books over the breathing humans. Yes, track the content, but if you don’t track the conversation then you’re missing the main story.If you had the choice of bringing your friends or your books to a desert island, we'd call you a sociopath if you took the books over the breathing humans. Yes, track the content, but if you don’t track the conversation then you’re missing the main story."

Contrary to this is the current situation though - those agencies that're doing well at the moment concentrate on their own disciplines, to become true specialists, rather than being creative generalists.

So it leads you back to the central thought - what do I have to know? Should I forsake a rigorous approach to data in favour of keeping an eye on conversations about my brand? Can I do both? Is the concept of 'T Shaped people' the only way to keep a handle on what people should learn - namely, take an avenue you think you know the most about/want to learn about, and explore it fully, without keeping your mind of the notion of other items of importance? Is the job title, as a result of this, effectively redundant?

It's amusing; I've been calling myself a 'plannerger' at work, because I am involved with a few basic account management things, and don't mind ever increasing amounts of client contact. But this, I think, may dilute my abilities as a planner (and I do believe each planner falls into either a creative or business focused role - dependent on how your mind is geared). I suppose the overall question is this: What part of your brain will be neglected (and necessarily so, to keep all of your marbles)?

Again, it ties into the question of whether google is making us smarter, or stupider (read the comments, especially the one about intensifying your personality). I think it leads to a tendancy to be a little bit more lazy, definitely - less interested in the search, and what you'll find out along the way.

And I don't want to be this lazy, technology dominated person. I want to be challenged, and learn 'what I have to know' along the way. It comes back to the notion of using a team of planners on a piece of business, or just coupling two people when trying to solve a problem - preferably with complementary skills, as each person will have an ability to 'fill in the gaps' with the other. Of course, also to keep your eyes open for any potential black swan - allowing the role of serendipity to enter your life.

So tell me, humble reader - what do you, regardless of experience in your role, think you'll need to know in the next 5/10 years? Or is it one of those navel gazing questions after all, and you don't know until you move forward?

No, I'm not going to quote Rumsfeld at you. Not this time.


It's probably best to think of this blog like that at the moment. Via Fudj - usual rules apply.

Hello there.

I wish I could claim the lack of blogging was down to something like me having a massive mental relapse, but the fact of the matter was that I've been pretty damned busy (and slightly at loss as to what to write about - hopefully my delicious feed has kept some folks interested).

At the moment, my blog might be a little bit on the back foot, due to a buggered home computer, but I will try and keep blogging in spite of that (nabbing a cheeky laptop from work is always a good start, in my view).
Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Keep on believing...

Well, it happened. The mighty Potters are going to be playing football in the Prem, the top tier of English football (sadly relegating my father's team, Leicester, which is a little sad).

And, all of a sudden, mainstream media became very interested in the last day drama of it all. And who wouldn't, let's be fair, it was a helluva story - despite the endless long throws and scrappy football that turned out to be the reality.

But it got me to thinking. Dangerous, that. When exactly, does a story, or event, cross over and become 'mainstream'? How exactly is 'mainstream' achieved? Why do we regard something as mainstream? (Barring the recent London elections, or tragedies, obviously).

It's interesting. I still tune into the good old BBC as my first choice of news, followed by whatever my RSS reader (tuned into the New York Times, The Indie, Telegraph & The Guardian) says is worthwhile.

And, let's extend this further to, yes, you've guessed it, the great 'where's the industry going?' debate which seems to uniquely conflict the ad industry at the moment. Either Mindshare are taking over the world, or PR companies are, or maybe even management consultancies (when they inevitably bring creative in house).

For a comparative junior in the business, it's not a simple case of boning up on your APG case studies and doing the odd blog post (though I wish it was). To try and define what'll become 'mainstream' in communications has become like trying to pin the tail on the donkey after about 5 whiskeys, blindfolded and after having eaten a very heavy meal.

So who do you trust, and talk to? Those hipper than hip digital agencies? These, who promise metrics and interactive experiences, the likes of which you've never seen before - which can seemingly create measurable worlds, which of course everyone will want to interact with. Or maybe a media agency, with 13 floors of econometrics, management consultancy and extreme targeting. Or maybe, just maybe, the traditional creative shop, with its base of ideas.

The latter option reminds me an awful lot of a religious theory I read when I was a wee nipper (good old AS Level Philosophy), about the God of the Gaps. Essentially, the theory can be distilled down into this - there were areas which Science cannot account for (time before time can be measured, essentially). For those bits, you fill in with God/your chosen Deity. Could creative agencies become like that?

NB: For what it's worth, I think the next split will be between those who properly outsource creativity and those who outsource analytics. 'Creative' agencies will have PR, Experiential and all the rest of that gubbins. T'others will, I think, become like management consultancies. What does everyone else think?

That's enough musing. Now have some music:

Sunday, April 27, 2008


.Damned cool picture. Nicked off Flickr, but I can't remember who from.

This is a blog post that is scuttling out of the ether that has been the last few months (I'm pleased to say worky stuff has slightly died down).

I look upon planning at this stage as a little bit of an Everest (or at least, a Ben Nevis). There's always so much more to learn, and I definitely think that the planner of the future needs to be able to process so much information (and not go mental, as I have, by subscribing to far far too many RSS feeds) and synthesise it simply. There's still a danger that we behave a little bit like Jack Nicholson in The Departed, whose character sums up the old model of comms neatly: 'I don't want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me'.

The problem with this is that as advertising is pushed from all sides, from mee-ja agencies who have whole departments devoted to carving up audiences for a product or service, to PR agencies, who claim to understand the science of communication far better than their ad counterparts, to design agencies (who are, as has oft been said, the new management consultants) ad agencies scrabble around to try and pick up pieces of a new puzzle which they don't have the instructions to.

Simply put, we can't work harder with the information we have been given. But we can work smarter, and build upon what we already know - that people's cognitive attention spans are limited, and, as Clay Shirky puts it here, look for "[that] place that a reader or a listener or a viewer or a user has been locked out, has been served up passive or a fixed or a canned experience, and ask ourselves, "If we carve out a little bit of the cognitive surplus and deploy it here, could we make a good thing happen?"

This, in my eyes, is the future of communication. Destroying the 'canned' experience, of the same thing happening every time - messing with people's heads, making them laugh, smile, and want to play with our content.

And, quite simply, asking 'would I want to engage with this?' should be a mandatory on every brief (or at least, asked), rather than assuming that people will want to - and Christ, I've been guilty of just assuming that this is the case (or been complicit in it, at any rate).

All of this musing has led me to realise that sitting in the office isn't going to get things done. I need to be out there, be slightly more of a bedouin, engaging with all and sundry, especially if I'm ever going to understand the range of brands I'm working on at the moment - and by that, I don't mean a cursory trip to the factory, or subscribing to a few loyalists' blogs, nor going along to the odd focus group. I mean actually exploring people's passions, and whether or not they can be applied to the product/service I'm working on.

And one slightly more practical thing that I have definitely realised is that damn, I need to get me a laptop. Having a slightly knackered desktop, both at home and at work, doesn't do me any favours. Being able to bugger off to a cafe to crank out a brief, or concoct a 'fast strategy' should be the order of the day, if there's a need to (I'm not convinced that fast is always right, though).

Something which isn't the order of the day, but still surprising, is that we're still top in my absence. Goarn the Potters..

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Some moments will be lost forever...

And some won't be. Thanks to Betty Blade, usual rules apply.

Bet you've been wondering where I've been. Well, unless some clever person has found out my password/offed me in a particularly clever way, I'm back again.

I probably, like a naughty child, should explain where I've been. Well, mostly, i've been working. Been learning planning, the processes behind it and just getting back into the swing of things. Along the way, I got my very first print ad out (I'd suggest you click on the image):

I've also learned what Zero means by 'Doesday'. And, indeed, just how much I've got to learn. I think advice from NP and others about learning planning holds true; you never, ever stop learning, whether it's brushing up on basic PowerPoint skills (yes, mine do still leave a bit to be desired, but hell, clever thinking trumps dissolve ins, heh), looking at my Outlook and groaning, or dealing with creative teams.

What I've been most impressed by is the people around me; there's such a mixture of skills, talents and mindsets. Yes, I know I wanted to get into advertising for the stimulating conversation and lateral thinking, but little did I know I'd have been involved in so many peculiar and interesting conversations (from the Quantic Soul Orchestra to the best briefings people have ever been involved in, to what motivates mums of six month old babies - the latter was an eye opener, let me tell you).

And of course, as for the stuff outside of work. Well, it's been a nice mixture of watching the mighty, mighty Potters stride to 4th, a bit of gigging (the Manics were best the second time around) and some socialising with a lot of old (and some new) friends.

I'm going to try and do some more cliched London things, and document them here. Never done an open top bus ride or visited the Tower of London, but hell - here's a line in the sand, I'm going to try and do them soonish. Yes, it's horribly touristy, but that's the joy. Reading some Peter Ackroyd at the same time will hopefully help fill in the gaps as well...
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