Friday, 25 May 2007

I love loving clients

I've been really lucky recently with some fantastic clients recently.

It's brilliant when you love your clients. Not only the people you're working with, but what the actual company does/stands for/sells. You do better work and enjoy it more.

Of all the companies that i think get it right in everyway - both for their customers, and also for their employees, I think Waitrose are it. My wife gets bored of me going on about what a brilliant company they are. And John Lewis overall. They sell great stuff, they're totally fair with you as a consumer, they are ethical in their trading, the employees are all partners who own the company. I haven't met a single person who works for waitrose who isn't absolutely lovely. They have an orchestra, a choir, boats for the partners to use, their own organic farm, holiday places for the partners to use, clubs for every possible interest. Basically, if you want to work in retail, go and work for Waitrose/John Lewis.
I think it's remarkable, and brilliant, that the new Chief Exec of Waitrose started 25 years ago as a management trainee.

It's easy finding something to love about a client when they're that good.

There should be something you can find to love about every client. How are you going to convince others with your messaging if you don't buy it yourself?

Collaboration / Committees

Normally the latter is confused with the former.

Collaboration to me is getting everyone involved and working together, having ownership and input into a solution. This requires a commitment from the client to give their time, and from the agency to listen to the client without thinking they know-it-all.

Committees are ways of making sure that everyone can feel like they've had a say into a project but don't have to put much effort or thought into it. Generally involves far more people than necessary being in a room, all desperately trying to think of something to say that will show they're useful, knowing they don't have to worry about the consequences.
I've been there. Both running the meeting, and as the worrier.

My recent projects have (fortunately) been much more towards collaboration than committee.

Friday, 18 May 2007

please. stop. constantly. referencing. myspace.

Turning the tables

It's sometimes great working for an agency, you can drift in to a redesign project and roll your eyes at the craziness of the previous design, tut and sigh and the lack of thought and innovation, then perch atop your high horse for a while.

Designing internal sites is a totally different ball game. It is the poisoned chalice. Because it represents 'the agency' everyone demands that it's the best ever, but gives you resources for the smallest ever.
You need a thick hide to deal with all the people who know better and would've done a far better job. Who preach without any idea of the politics, pain, time constraints, normal workload, cooks/oars, etc.

We're redesigning our current site at the moment, which i confess to having a hand in - and admit could be MUCH better. But it's still annoying having to listen to 13 people in a meeting room roundly slag it off.
For 4 hours.

I'm off to lick my wounds.

Thursday, 17 May 2007


I shouldn't imagine i'm that unusual in this behaviour.

Round 12 amends...

Thursday, 10 May 2007

APG Training Network

A couple of months ago attended the APG (Account Planners Group) training network. An extremely interesting series of talks culminating in a group presentation project to a bunch of top planners about a struggling brand and what we'd do with it.

One thing particularly fun, as someone working for an online agency, was seeing the opulance of successful above the line agencies. Blimey.

Anyway, I did some scribbles for each talk, so i thought i'd stick them up.

Week 1: George Bryant - What is planning?

George's talk was a great introduction to the art of planning. He talked about how little of someone's attention we get - a piece of research they did showed that the 'average' person in a single day saw 2904 messages, paid attention to 50, engaged with 25, then finally acted upon 3. Which does bring you up short.
He gave a cool example of how Sainsbury's 'try something new' was inspired by a slightly sideways way of getting round some massively ambitious targets for the advertising.
He railed against lazy planning, saying it's tired/rote and formulaic. Often because people often turn into Presentation Creaters, rather than Idea communicators.
His top tips:
  • Don't just say something about a product, show something about a project. The web makes this easier, and much more powerful.
  • Don't be an island - your ideas will be better, and will be more likely to get used/accepted. Probably his most important message
He also showed some cool ads and explained how they came about.

I like the message about not being an island. It's quite easy to do in both IA and Planning - overintellectualise something, then create a presentation about it, deliver the presentation/documentation, then consider the job done.
I also liked the message about focussing on the Business problem behind a brief, then trying to solve that, rather than taking assumptions of a solution loaded into a brief.

Week 2: Malcolm White - The changing value of brands

I really enjoyed Malcolm's talk. He was funny and thought provoking.
Brands are complicated - we try and simplify them into stooopid diagrams which are prescriptive and inhibit creativity. He then delved more into what it is that makes up a 'Brand' - ironically summing it up with the most simplistic brand diagram possible - that of a peach, the pit being the product, and the flesh being the 'brand' that makes it attractive and different.

He made a good point about 'Brand' being something that is not cared about by most people Planners deal with - which leads to planning becoming a variety of roles. Author / Evangalist / Translator. A brand needs a 'vision' - a reason for living. Profit and money are just a given, like oxygen & blood.

Very enjoyable talk indeed.
Week 3: Vanella Jackson - Developing a great strategy

This talk was a real shame, it was moved later by a couple of weeks and i think some of the others stole her thunder. She came across as phenomenally clever and would be a brilliant mentor, but a lot of her talk had been covered before, and it felt a bit like a summary of what had come before, rather than a new injection of ideas.
There were some nice ideas about having a variety of comms strategies of a single brand strategy, and how a brand promise must change over time as circumstances change around it.

A shame - i think she should either come earlier in the list of talks, or take a slightly different topic. Something like details on those two ideas above. eg, how to manage a brand over time, to evolve it around circumstances.

Week 4: Tom Morton: Creative Briefs and Creative Briefing

Another really enjoyable talk with some ideas that have really stuck with me. Particularly the sentiment that "The Clearer the Problem is > The bolder the solution can be" and Be useful to your creatives - that's the best way to be a good planner for creatives.
his blog

Week 5: Rebecca Munds: The role of the planner in the creative development

Some fun thoughts. Very important to clarify the 'Big' creative idea, and it should be able to live seperate to the executions. Should be able to talk about the idea without mentioning executions.
Best quote:
"Don't be the Devil's Advocate, he's got enough advocates"
    I think this is one of the clearest notes pages - the least ambiguous so doesn't need a huge amount of explanation. Just follow the arrows clockwise.

    Week 6: John Owen - What does digital mean for planning
    I couldn't make this week, as i was skiing, so instead I met him for lunch and he talked me through it. I thought it a bit rude to sketch him over the dinner table, so instead we just chatted. Much more interesting one-on-one and the conversation roamed outside the presentation.
    The presentation itself was more of an intro to digital for above the line planners so less useful for me as a digi-boy, but chatting with John did create lots of thoughts. Many thanks John!

    Week 7: Alice Schaffer - Evaluating advertising effectiveness
    What a fascinating talk! Digital doesn't really have any of this stuff, so this introduced me to loads of things i didn't know about. The entire realm of 'econometrics' for instance which in this context is to do with creating models that take into account every (?!) external factor surrounding a product so that it's possible to isolate particular factors that have affected sales. Then, if it's actually a robust model, you can illustrate what would happen if... and predict the future. Sounds mega hardcore and really fascinating.
    She highly recommended a book called the Hidden Power of Advertising. (£45 though) which, i think, is about how much more we're affected by messaging than we actually think we are.

    As with some of the other speakers she rammed home the importance of defining the problem - as then you can figure out the best ways of deciding how well it addresses that problem.

    Week 8 was the presentation, but that's a whole other post.
    Read about it on mega-blogger Vincent Thomé's blog

    Great course, absolute bargain and really interesting speakers.

    Being efficient

    I think it's a combination of kicking back, having just killed yourself to (over) deliver on time, and Parkinson's law: "Work expands to fill the time available for its completion."

    Wednesday, 9 May 2007

    Discussing Ideas

    Sometimes this is how I feel when I discuss ideas. I spend hours coming up with something in my own little brain laboratory, covering off all angles, it all seems blindingly obvious to me.

    Then when I show it to someone, if they don't get it immediately I simply cannot understand them. WHY CAN'T THEY UNDERSTAND THE GENIUS??

    I think I get this with a lot of things, both in and out of work.


    If there was a skill I wish they taught at University, this would be it. Negotiation/Idea selling.
    Design courses are MUCH MUCH better at it, it seems from day 1 you have to justify your ideas constantly.
    It's taken me ages to catch up with them.

    Tuesday, 8 May 2007

    Time to blog

    The scanner isn't hooked up at the moment, crappy photos instead.