Wednesday 23 December 2009

Don't join the professionals

Cricketer turned journalist Ed Smith has written an article in this quarter's Intelligent Life that I would like to stand up and applaud.

It's about how the concept of professionalism has taken over in every imaginable sphere, from sports to teaching to nursing to journalism.

The consequence being, that in our relentless pursuit of "professionalism", the word "amateur" has come to mean second-rate and slapdash.

He tells an horrific tale of the Kent County Cricket Team arguing for days over the exact wording of a "Core Covenant" rather than practising their cricket.

Modern-day professionalism is obsessed with coaches and consultants, with questionnaires and measurement, and with Mission Statements of the "to be the leader in creating value for customers through market leadership" sort.

Ed Smith quotes John Kay, academic, economist and columnist:
"Whatever our sphere of work, we have to distinguish between what is analytically soluble and what is essentially mysterious. And often the most successful methods fall into the latter category."

Hear, hear. "Amateur" used to mean someone who did something for the love of it. My Mission Statement for next year is to be decidedly more amateur.

Sunday 20 December 2009

The world is going T-shaped

Consistency is a bit out of fashion as a word these days - cue "only liars need to be consistent", "it's about coherence" blah, blah - but I was pleased to see some elements of consistency in the Campaign essays on integration from 12 agency experts.

First of all, you don't get anywhere with a "message" these days. Oh, no. You have to have a brand idea or agenda, or a brand experience, a brand story or transmedia narrative if you must, or at least a brand conversation. And whatever it is, for God's sake make sure it's not some under-nourished, lifeless little offering. It must be rich, expansive, generous - entertaining enough or useful enough to share. Again and again.

And there is the issue of participation. Some go as far to say that it's not about integration these days but participation. Letting other people develop the thing. Consumers in the driving seat. Adult to adult instead of parent to child.

The phrase "none of us is as strong as all of us" popped up a few times. This is the collaboration card. Leave your egos and hierarchies at the door.

It's OK to show your seams or VPL or any other kind of line these days. In fact we should be embracing and celebrating the differences between different channels. There was rather a lot of celebrating and embracing going on in these articles. But matching luggage isn't celebrated and embraced any more. That's reserved for the orchestra.

So who is going to be doing all the creating, celebrating and embracing of these transmedia narrative agendas and the like? Why, the new breed of T-shaped people, who have deep knowledge of one communications discipline with broad understanding and respect of the full range. I think I'll spend Christmas becoming T-shaped to face the Teenies or whatever ghastly moniker the next decade gets.

Sunday 13 December 2009

So, the noughties were a load of balls

In the spirit of many others at this tired time of year, I'm going to be a bit lazy in this post and regurgitate one of those "noughties" lists rather than go for any original thought. This one is from UK Campaign and is for the Top 10 TV and Cinema spots of the last decade.

1. Sony Bravia 'Balls'
2. Cadbury 'Gorilla'
3. Honda 'Cog'
4. Guinness 'Tipping Point'
5. Stella Artois 'Pilot'
6. Skoda 'The baking of'
7. Orange 'Gold spot, Snoop Dogg'
8. Honda 'Grrrr'
9. Budweiser 'Whassup?'
10. Levis 'Odyssey'

There's plenty to admire here - spectaculars, amazing film techniques and lateral creativity. And it's good to see that those spots from UK-based agencies have an international feel about them. Inevitably, the spots are for those categories that seem to attract good ideas like a spray of Lynx - beer, cars, technology.

What would I like to see in the next ten years? Certainly that TV and cinema are still alive and kicking. It would be good to see more of the everyday; FMCG and retail done well. And, dare I say it, a bit more humanity, emotion and EQ. Because, by the end of the next decade, I expect every Tom, Dick and Harry will be perfectly capable of producing a spectacular of this magnitude on their own.

Monday 7 December 2009

Take me to Shangri-La

Last night, I finished reading James Hilton's 1933 classic, Lost Horizon, where a group of British/US travelers are stranded in the mysterious and beautiful lamasery of Shangri-La. With its theme of the nature of time and human wisdom, this book is as relevant to the digital age as it was to the pre-WW2 world in which it was published.

The High Lama promises: "And, most precious of all, you will have Time - that rare and lovely gift that your Western countries have lost the more they have pursued it."

And immediately afterwards, I read this post by Steve Rothman, that seemed to encapsulate exactly my yearning for an escape away from all the digital diarrhoea, the insubstantial froth and banal banter that seems to clutter up the ether. "How about posting a little less and thinking a little more," says Steve.

Maybe I'd better get myself to a lamasery.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Invasion of the Kuddly Kreatures

I have an admission to make. I am one of those parents who doesn't protest too strongly at being dragged off to see "Alvin & The Chipmunks" or "G-Force". I have quite a soft spot for cuddly creatures. I do, however, draw the line at sending cute puppies and kittens around by email to people I haven't spoken to properly in the last decade.

Given my liking for jazz, how could I resist the latest spot for Drench? Apparently, Miles, Fats, The Duke and Dizzy were all discovered in the proper casting tradition through classified ads looking for talented hamsters. The result is a lovely little bit of entertainment, if your tastes are like mine - or the start of the annual YouTube Kuddlefest horror, if they're not.

But is it good communication for the brand? I expect I'll have to be a party pooper on that. There is just far too much of this stuff around, such that a brand can't own it unless that brand is exceptional. Coke got away with the singing gonks this summer although very few other brands would have pulled it off.

At the end of it, they're trying to sell water or refreshment and I'm afraid neither of those come readily to mind when I think of hamsters.