Sunday, 26 July 2015

Warts and all

a relevant experiment from Jeff Scardino on Vimeo.
The relevant résumé is the first résumé that showcases your failures. To prove it works, I submitted two different applications for ten different job openings — one using my regular résumé and one using my relevant résumé.

Whether it's Facebook status updates or ghastly round-robin emails at Christmas, pumping up achievements to Zeppelin-sized accomplishments, I'm always amused when someone starts to take the mick and sends something out along the lines of 'What a year we've had! In May I had an ingrowing toenail diagnosed and in September the cat was sick on the patio.'

It's much the same with CVs. I haven't updated mine for years, and I'm well aware that it probably does nothing to sell me or my meagre talents. I feel slightly queasy at the idea of describing myself as a 'results-orientated team player who pursues perfection with passion' or some or other similar twaddle.

So I was very pleased to hear about The Relevant Resume from copywriter Jeff Scardino. He has well and truly burst the bubble of those pompous, over-inflated but strangely similar CVs with his idea to 'showcase your failures'. He put his idea to the test, applying for jobs with a traditional CV and the warts-and-all version, including 'missed honors', 'bad references' and 'non skills'. And the warts-and-all version attracted far more positive attention.

I think there's something that can be learned here for brands, too. Sometimes it's the non-perfect bits that don't fit, the stuff you're not good at, which makes you the perfect choice.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Is the internet the new TV?

The question in the title, and its answer, may seem obvious to some. Well, of course! Surely we've known that for some time now. But has it ever occurred to you that the internet is becoming more and more like TV in its nature, too?

Sometimes it takes being away from something to notice changes that are, to the rest of us, imperceptible. Which is precisely what happened to blogger Hossein Derakhshan, author of this thought-provoking and very readable article: The Web We Have To Save. Derakhshan was imprisoned, in Iran, for his blogging among other things, between 2008 and 2014. The year before he went to jail, I joined Facebook, which was still at the early adopter phase and a very different place to what it is now. I was rather late to blogging, starting with that in 2008.

Derakhshan points out a number of developments that have taken place on the internet during his incarceration, but that with the greatest impact is the growth of social media, especially Facebook and Twitter. As he says, "lots of people start their daily online routine in these cul de sacs of social media, and their journeys end there." What characterises social media is what Derakhshan calls The Stream - "...getting fed a never-ending flow of information that's picked for them by complex - and secretve - algorithms." These days, you don't even need to go via a browser - just press the Facebook app button on your smartphone and you mustn't even leave the confines of your cosy social media world. He adds: "... and not only do the algorithms behind the Stream equate newness and popularity with importance, they also tend to show us more of what we've already liked. These services carefully scan our behaviour and delicately tailor our news feeds with posts, pictures and videos that they think we would most likely want to see."

The anthropomorphising of algorithms aside (an easy mistake to slip into), this is a fundamentally important point. People want an easy life and they want to be entertained. Nothing wrong in that except when it's to the exclusion of the way people used the internet, predominantly, ten or fifteen years ago: "The web was not envisaged as a form of television when it was invented. But, like it or not, it is rapidly resembling TV: linear, passive, programmed and inward-looking."

The very expression "News Feed" says it all - the social media is feeding people a pre-determined stream of pap. Calling it "curated" doesn't make it any better.

And the internet is less and less about seeking out the obscure, the diverse, the non-conformist and the individual.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Have Marmite, will travel

Around this time of year, you'll find me in somewhere like dm rifling through all those travel/trial size shampoos, conditioners, sun creams, hand creams and all the rest that they have displayed so attractively, like a grown-up pick 'n mix. I don't care that value for money doesn't come in to the equation - I am a huge fan of these little packs.

I'm also a huge fan of my UK food favourites, from Marmite to OXO, from Colman's Mustard to M&S Fruit Sherbets. And now, those clever people at Marmite have put two and two together and have launched a 70g travel size of Marmite, available for £1.

The rationale, as if it isn't obvious, is that Marmite is second on the list of Top 10 confiscated foods for Brits travelling through UK airports. And, in fact, it's the No. 1 confiscated brand, given that jam/marmalade (generic) tops the list. The 3rd position, incidentally, is taken by another of my favourites, Lyle's Golden Syrup.

A little pot of marmite is just the thing when you are suffering from an overdose of powdered orange juice, over-sweet cakes, liver spread and mysterious cheese triangles that require no refrigeration  for your hotel breakfast.

Spread the word.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Imperfect Variety or Flawless Focus?

As a freelancer, I sometimes feel as if I have even more problems with work/life balance than those that are employed. Talking to other freelancers, the same issue always comes up:

How do you ever achieve the ideal level of work? Enough to live on, keep you stimulated and fresh, but not so much that you can't do a good job or have any time at all to do other stuff.

I've blogged about the School of Life before, and their series of short, instructive YouTube videos, such as the one above, are well worth a look. The Work/Life balance argument comes to the conclusion - it's a choice, and a good one - for imperfect variety vs. flawless focus.

Being a freelancer, you don't have an office to leave (well, you do, but it's likely to be in the same building where you live), or a company to love or be loyal to, but I still find this passed-around-Facebook quote from Dr APJ Abdul Kalam a good maxim to live by:

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Advertising - what is it good for?

I've never been to Cannes, mainly because in my advertising agency heyday back in the last century, it just wasn't the done thing for planners to go along to this sort of jamboree. It was a rare account person that got to go, come to think of it. Of course, things are different now. There are all sorts of geeks there now from clients to planners of various persuasions to all kinds of techy people. I'm not even sure if creatives still attend.

In the aftermath of Cannes, there has been a spate of articles bemoaning the state of the industry, questioning what exactly Cannes is celebrating and asking the question - who is advertising actually for these days? Here are some that caught my eye:

Tracey Follows, in the The Guardian asks When will advertising ever again be about the people it serves? It's a thought-provoking piece, slightly let down by the ghastly c-word (you know what I mean) when talking about people, about how advertisers' obsession with technology has meant a trade-off in humanity.

Sean Boyle, of BrainJuicer argues that those creating advertising have become over-thinkers, too tricksy, too enamoured of technology and technique - 'how much time we spend nervously over-thinking what never, ever needed to become this difficult.' His simple solution: Aim for Fame.

Keith Weed's speech from Cannes is also worth a look. He's the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of Unilever. His argument is that we've moved from Marketing To People (broadcasting to a captive audience) to Marketing With People (curating and creating with an audience) and we should move to Marketing For People (connecting purpose with purchase).

I'm not sure I buy that. Surely marketing was always about people - finding out what moves and motivates them, developing products and services that meet their needs and desires, and communicating these in a compelling way. And I think the image of the captive audience is a myth. We had remote controls to flick through channels back in the last century - and there were some great ads around that you didn't want to fast forward, in the UK at any rate. Maybe he means 'captivated audience'?!

That little disagreement aside, I like what he's saying - purpose and purchase, engaging people's hearts, not about technology but ideas, yes, yes, tick, tick.

The final link is also to the Guardian, a piece by Tom Goodwin from Havas, who argues that advertising is 'an industry that's in love with technology and itself, not the people it purports to sell to.' Now, while it's a great article, I think there's the same slight problem with vocabulary. Yes, you sell to people. But have we ever marketed to them? I'll leave you with a great quote form the article:

I’ve never met anyone who has seen a vending machine reward them for laughing, I’ve never walked through a door marked ugly, got a Coke from a drone, or been offered a crisp packet with my face on. I’ve never had a friend share their personalised film, I’ve not seen outdoor ads that are also street furniture or had an ATM give me a funny receipt. I’ve not received a magazine with a near field communication thing and I’ve not had a virtual reality experience outside advertising conferences. I’ve not once seen a member of the public 3D print anything. The one thing that binds together the more than 200 Cannes winners I’ve seen, is that they are ads only advertising people have a good chance of seeing. I’m not sure that’s what the industry should be about.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Daddy Cool

The advertising and marketing industry has a current obsession with women. It's a strange thing, as the top echelons of power in agencies are still dominated by men. The barrage of campaigns in the last few years "celebrating moms", "empowering girls", "embracing plus size bodies" almost feels like a smokescreen, put up to distract mumsnet and other pressure groups from the real issues.

In all of this, dads get lost. Is there a dadsnet? I'm not sure. But there is an interesting new study out from Y&R Toronto, which looks into dads in North America in terms of their shopping behaviour and relationship with brands. It's called Who's Your Daddy?  - and more details can be found here.

Maybe not surprisingly, given the way parenthood has changed even in the last few years, with paternity leave becoming the norm, the authors of the study conclude that dads are well-worth targeting by advertisers. Fathers are less frugal and bargain-hunting than mothers, more brand loyal than men in general and especially younger fathers (under 35) see "dad" as a real badge of honour.

Is it time for the Mad Men to out themselves as Dad Men?

Monday, 22 June 2015

Pre-teen Queen

The Queen is coming to Frankfurt on Thursday, and, despite never having had the slightest inclination to join the throngs at Buckingham Palace all the years that I lived in London, I may just go along to have a peek, for fun. I guess it's the same sort of ex-pat patriotism that has me carrying my iPhone in a Union Jack cover.

I have a pet theory which says that the Queen's generation may be the longest-lived generation of all time. Although I'm not a fan of all that generation twaddle that makes sweeping statements about tastes, views, beliefs of entire cohorts of people around the globe, I think it's fair to say that people born in the Western world in the 20s and 30s (assuming they survived the war) escaped the worst of poverty and infectious diseases yet managed to attain adulthood before diets got completely crammed with dubious chemicals. Even in my day, an obese child in the class was an exception. Look at films of London in the 1950s on YouTube and there are very few overweight people to be seen.

This generation was probably the last to escape the greedy clutch of commerce and advertising. The word "teenager" first appeared in 1941, but the term was not really in common use and associated with "youth culture" until the 1950s, by which time these people were starting families. Elvis would have been 80 this year, but even someone born in 1939 may have considered themselves too old to have been screaming at his hip-swivelling antics in the late 50s. And marketers aren't terribly interested in this age-group, with most surveys having a cut-off point at 65.

I wonder if the Queen has ever worn jeans? For those that spent their teenage years during wartime or the immediate post-war period, jeans are not an automatic uniform. But the Queen's generation certainly can't be accused of lacking in style. Many of Hollywood's most glamorous actresses belong to this generation, and there continues to be interest in them today, as fashion role models - see this article on Tim Walker's Granny Alphabet in Sturm und Drang, or the blog Advanced Style

Too old for rock & roll, too old to be teens, to wear jeans, this generation is also the last not to have flocked en masse to social media. But, strangely, the younger generations find plenty in their lifestyle to admire - The Women's Institute, the vegetable garden, gin, twin-sets and cupcakes are all enjoying revivals.

A quick internet search tells me that people born between 1925 and 1942 have been dubbed 'The Silent Generation'. It's apt, in a way, but I do ask myself if that silence is self-imposed, a wise choice.