Tuesday 24 June 2008

Getting my post in order

One of the joys of being freelance is that I get to do all that information-gathering and web-surfing that's normally efficiently handled by the Agency's Information department...or whatever the current name for these good people might be.

This is brilliant in some ways, mainly because I never really know what I'm looking for until I find it and because I've always loved stashing interesting snippets away for later use.

These days, subscribing to various newsletters about what's going on in business or branding or strange new media makes life a lot easier, too. Well, as long as I'm sitting at my desk, that is. I'm shortly going to be disappearing for two weeks for the first time in 13 years and I have vowed not to look at any e-mails during this time. And now, having coped with all those spammy people who want to sell me something for non-existent parts of my anatomy or offer me their entire wealth as a sixty-first cousin twelve-removed, I am wondering if I really need to wade through out-of-date updates on a new radio ad for the Fun 'n' Friends Mobile phone tariff on my jet-lagged return.

So I am going through a process of unsubscribing and weeding out. I'm keeping all those that I've paid for or may possibly look at, like Brand Channel or Contagious. But the rest can go, especially all those from Social Networking Sites telling me who's poked a sausage at me or that my "friend" Santa Claus is a 88.395% match with me on My Favourite Tiddlywink colours.

But, for anyone else doing this, be warned. A lot of these e-mails cling like barnacles. So far, McAfee seems to be the worst offender. Trying to unsubscribe from their pointless reminders is a task as difficult as finding out, definitively, How Advertising Works.

Wednesday 18 June 2008

Staying Home

I've never heard of Savanna Dry Cider, let alone drunk it, but they've certainly made me laugh. As every team I have supported up to now goes crashing out, I'm quite glad that England weren't there to slip over in that torrential rain while taking a penalty or any other such nonsense.

Anyway, here's the film from the cider boys. At least we're still good at the funny stuff.

By the way, if anyone knows how to embed a YouTube video into Blogger, I'd be very grateful!

Sunday 15 June 2008

Rafts or Rockets?

I read a great post on Richard Huntingdon's Adliterate the other day entitled "Spoiled for Choice." In it, Richard takes the Planner's favourite briefing example one step further and points out that it was unlikely that Michelangelo was asked to present three different concepts for the Sistine Chapel roof concept to go into research.

He's absolutely right: nor, I suspect, did J.K.Rowling approach publishers with a boy wizard idea, a teenage werewolf idea, a girl nun idea and a baby musical star idea to see which had the best chance of running. I also read an interesting piece on Contagious about visionary product designers and here, too, we didn't see everyone from Edison to Steve Jobs presenting a range of alternative ideas in case the client or "the consumer" didn't like the light bulb or i-Pod.

In my years at Saatchi London, we only ever presented one idea: the idea we were all behind and that we believed in. It came from our single-minded way of thinking. But, gradually, around the time I came to Germany (which was when Charles & Maurice did their bunk), things changed. There were Schulterblicks and "tissue meetings" to present various different Ansätze, directions or approaches in the name of "client involvement and buying-in."

Around this time, I first heard someone use the (to me) silly expression "a whole raft of ideas". I wondered if I had missed something in the use of the word "raft" so I checked in my dictionary. Now, OK, "raft" can be used colloquially to mean a "large collection or crowd" but interestingly this comes from the word "raff rubbish, perh. of Scand. orig.". This is as I suspected. To me, unless you're Thor Heyerdahl, a "raft" smacks of desperation. All manner of flotsam and jetsam cobbled together to get you out of a tricky spot. It doesn't really matter what it is, as long as it floats.

No. We don't need rafts. I know the world has changed and I know that in these days of customer-generated content everything is a lot more complex than in those single-minded 1980s. But...I do sometimes wish that agencies would sometimes have the boldness to leave their ragbag rafts and dragnets in the agency and just bring the client their rocket.

Monday 9 June 2008

Because it's there.

At this time of year, I have my usual dither about whether to attend the apgd annual "Open Source" and following AGM. On the one hand, it's at least a day out of my busy freelancer working life where I'm not earning any money and paying for hiking up to Hamburg (can't they hold it just once in Frankfurt?). On the other hand, I have found the Open Source in the past to be pretty entertaining one way or another and probably justifies my apgd membership fee. For every "dud" speaker who's trying to sell something there's usually a totally dotty professor, or a comedy act, or someone off the top of the intellectual pretentiousness scale. I adore the feeling of sitting in the auditorium trying to work out whether the speaker is serious or taking the Mickey.

This year, it's all about Führung, a word that has connations of "direction" and "management" as well as "leadership" in German. I see that there are two professors (hopefully totally batty) on the speaker list as well as someone from the Stern and - get this - the Worldwide leader of Mountaineering Training from the German Association of Mountaineers and Alpine Skiers. Well, that's done it. In the words of one of Britain's most famous mountaineers, I'll have to go. "Because it's there."

Tuesday 3 June 2008

Brand-tunnel vision: guilty?

Stuck in Europe, as I am, I get to read Campaign at least a week after everyone in the UK. I was a little amused and a little annoyed about the "Best of the Blogs" article this week (sorry, about two weeks ago), from Dave Trott. This was from a post entitled "The answer is 'brand', now what's the question?"

In the post was the complaint that most Planners are obsessed with brands, to the point of having tunnel-vision: every problem has to be a branding problem. The example of a Sainsbury's repitch is cited, where (one assumes) all the highly-paid brand boffins sat down to discuss onions and pyramids until a young Planner (in the style of 'The Emperor's New Clothes') suggested that they have a look at the numbers - store visits, average check, that sort of mucky stuff.

I was amused because the out-of-touch-with-reality Planners worshipping their cubes, dodecagons, archeological artifacts and garden vegetables are always a bit of a joke, but annoyed because I hoped I wasn't being tarred with the same brush. After a bit of soul-searching, I convinced myself that I wasn't (or at least, only in rare lapses).

My advice to young Planners is this: stay close to reality. Reality of people and reality of business. For the first, this means not sitting cooped up in the agency every night and available weekend. For the second, it means having a stint on the client side - even a month or so as an "exchange" should knock out brand-tunnel-vision before it takes root. Even better if you make that in Sales rather than Marketing.