How to sell better work

July 28, 2010 3 comments

“Clients. They just don’ get it, do they? They really don’t understand (Insert: what good work is / social media / the Internet /  whatever your new frustration is)”

How many times do we hear that?

It seems that  if clients don’t embark on super innovative and  mega cool new campaigns is down to the fact that they are afraid of taking risks or simply refuse to change.

We’ve all been there, presented some TV work we thought was utterly brilliant and was going to completely turn their fortunes around. Or the next social network idea / iPhone app idea that would have revolutionised the market.

But they didn’t get it. They weren’t ready for it. And turned it down. Despite being in their best interests to actually do it. Why and how can we change that?

It all came to me like a kick in the teeth, while watching an episode of Mary queen of the shops.

The woman’s a genius. She could have many a fortune in any creative career she would have chosen.

She reminded me of how obsolete is the way we try to build relationships with our clients and sell them good work.

More often than not, we take a client’s brief, go away for a couple of month and go back to present our brand new shiny integrated 360 campaign. We put all our eggs into one presentation. All our efforts, all our energy, all our creativity, into trying to pack the most insightful, brilliant… PowerPoint presentation. It’s such a massive risk and makes it so hard for client to buy a brave solution when they haven’t even grasped the basics of the new techno-friendly communication landscape.

Now you hear a lot of people saying they try to take the client on a journey with them, etc. But really, who does it and what does they do about it apart from organizing a brainstorming session with the client or a throwing an odd workshop every now and then?

But back to Mary. In every episode, she tries to help a local retailer who’s struggling to keep its business  afloat. She has only four weeks to do it. What’s important is that they have signed up to the BBC website to get her help. They know she is retail guru. They need her help or otherwise they will go bankrupt. You’d think it’d be dead easy: here’s your new concept BAM, thank you very much. Yet, they all turn to be nightmarish clients,  difficult and scared to death to change. And let me tell you, they are a lot more difficult to deal with than the clients we have.

Here’s a little exert:

I mean how do you fancy working with him, owner of a DIY shop?

Or this old hippycouple for example, Denny and Dazzle, owner of a furniture shop called ‘under the moon’.

Yet, (almost always) she manages to delivers a master class in selling work to the most difficult clients possible.

And beyond her fantastic personality and charisma, there is a very creative method in her flamboyant style. One that can and should be applied to one of our biggest problems; selling better work to clients.

She spends most of her 4 weeks, trying to get to know the business, trying to understand them, inspiring them, challenging them, getting their confidence, getting them involved, motivating them,  and only when they are ready for it, will she introduce the new concept. She knows what she wants to do with the shop the moment she steps in it, but she makes a point of getting her clients there with her every step of the way.

An advertising agency would have taken the brief, gone away, come back two weeks later with a 70 slides presentation, some concepts and would have spent the remaining 2 weeks arguing the hell about it, demonstrating with research how right they are, pestering against the client’s lacks of vision.

Mary is often faced with shop owners who have been used to doing things the way they wanted all their lives. Who have put their personality and all they had in these shops. She has to confront them with the truth (sometimes brutally). These furniture sellers have NO taste, no idea what’s modern or what people want. When they are confronted by Mary on that fact, they all vigorously refute the fact. It’s a gigantic blow to their personal pride.

Indeed, they are out of touch with their own business. Out of touch with their consumers. They’ve ben kept in their protective bubble for the last decades and have known nothing else than what’s got them there. (rings a bell?).   Mary just knows that there is a huge amount of work to before showing them anything new.

How many times does it happen? Clients business not doing too well, seeks a cool agency, yet don’t listen to their advice?

Yet she manages to do in 4 weeks what a lot of us fail to do in a year.  So here’s a list of 10 things you could start doing right now to make sure you start getting the work you want out of your clients to get us started:

1/ Redefine what an account team stands for

The responsibility of selling the work should not belong only to the account team anymore.

Get an inspiring client-facing person in your account team. Who sees your clients the most? Who’s building your client relationship? Your account team. Who are the most inspiring people in your agency? Everyone else. (sorry, overgeneralising for the purpose of the exercise). Yet they barely get any client time, do they? Might want to start changing that. CDs at Wieden are client facing, and not just for the big presentation, they are present all the way from the original client briefing. They inspire clients all the way. They don’t just show up to present their work at the end of the process and act like divas if its turned down.

Apart from rare occasion, account management does not know much of what is going on in terms of new campaigns, technology, etc. They need to be fed constantly with new stimulus and it should be their responsibility to make sure the clients are kept up-to-date with the latest ideas and technology.

Creative, producers, planners, innovation people, social media people, etc. should all be part of a core team who’s job it is to keep inspiring their client.

2/ Reintegrate the Innovation lab or innovation director into the day to day client servicing

Having a separate innovation departments and officers made sense a couple of years ago, as a PR exercice. Now pretty much every agency has one, it does not make sense any more to have them as stand alone department, disconnected from the hard realities of running an account. Their responsibility lies in making the input of the agency better and more integrated, every day, and helping clients buy that work. Looking cool to the outside world, should be a bonus of doing awesome work, not an end in itself. Flip that focus & energy from trying to impress your peers back to serving the machine internally. The whole innovation business thing is becoming a bit of a joke, mutual ego stroking and intellectualising theories that are completely unrealistic for most clients and situation.

Look no further than BBH Labs working on Google for a successful example of how to do it.

3/ Be creative about getting more client time

Probably the most difficult challenge. Clients are busy bees. They don’t normally tend to make time for inspiration sessions. Why? Because they sound dull and although they know their knowledge is limited, they don’t feel like being bombarded by lots of ‘cool’ shit that makes no sense to them.

BBH used to organise a marketing dinner for their big cheese client to meet and chat about each other perspectives, which proved a great success. (and a pain to organise).

Organise events with artists, reorganise your reception into the inspiration room, take your clients to exhbitions and talks, get them to meet their own consumers, etc. Be innovative and stimulating, and your clients will find the time for you.

4/ Maximise every client touch point

–  How many times clients come to your agency? Quite a few times don’t they? Do they ever get any stimulation while waiting in the reception? Are they exposed to new stuff each time? Nope. What a missed opportunity. I have seen a lot of advertising agencies reception. All imposing. None inspiring. What does it say about us as a business? (and having an artist exhibiting in the reception lobby doesn’t count as stimulation)

–  What about emails? Good old newsletter, etc.

–  A dedicated tumblr blog for each of your client? Responsibility of the innovation lab mentioned above?

5/ Have an inspiration strategy

Let’s reiterate one human truth: NO ONE LIKES TO BE SOLD TO. You don’t like when research agencies, production agencies, designers, try to sell you stuff. Same feeling for your clients towards you pushing them to do an Iphone app. They don’t believe you because they doubt you have their best interest at heart. But what we do like, is the feeling of discovering something by ourselves. When are clients most likely to get to grasp a new the importance of a new technology? When they see their children / wife using it. Sad but true.

We need to have strategies to get clients to realise by themselves the importance of digital, of the participartory culture, new opportunities offered by this new generation of smart-phone. And showing them slides is probably the least efficient way to do so.

Selling doesn’t start when you start presenting your strategy & concept. By that time, the selling should almost be over, just needing a last push. As you embark on a new project, you should make sure you have an ‘inspiration’ strategy that will start taking your client up there with you, so there’s little room for incomprehension when you present.

This should be a long term and continuous inspiration plan. Yes, not a 2 hours workshop every 6 months, or a quick email every now and then. That should be as important as working on the strategy and creative itself.

6/ Take clients out of their comfort zone

An important point: One of the best way Mary has to convince clients that they didn’t understand what was going on in the real world anymore was to a/ get consumers in their shop and tell what they really think of it (it was painful truth to hear from the owners).

She then takes them to the extreme top-end of their range. Furniture owner meet top interior designer Abigail Ahern (!0/cdf9vkk1n0ip34hm9btqoyfuylzhb6w/Abigail%20i%20underlandet)

We don’t all know Paul Smith as a friend, but there are ways to get your clients to get out of their comfort zone and stuck in the real world without spending money and having fun in the process:

“Mary drives her Audi A3 up to picturesque Corfe Castle in Dorset, where owners Chris and Juliet are running village store Clealls into the ground. Mary spots that the relocated Cockney couple haven’t bonded with the locals, so takes them out on a pheasant shoot”

“Portas organises a saucy promotional photoshoot for the Fosters sisters, neglecting to tell them they’ll be wearing nothing but fruit and veg. Jen cries because she thinks she looks fat. Debbie says, “My husband will be moritified. I can see myself in the divorce courts over this.” Portas talks them round, they look fabulous and hang the framed portraits behind the counter.”

Source: The Telegraph

The staff of a DIY shop won’t wear the uniform. Bang, organise a photoshoot.

7/ Hire the right kind of people: empathy for people, passion for great work, energy and style

One of the reasons Mary has been so successful is partly due to the fact that she genuinely loves people. She wants to help them. She has an empathy you can’t fake. When I work on a client’s business, I take it to heart to serve them to the best of my abilities and to do what’s right for them, not what’s right for my boss or my creative (it got me in troubles, but it always works out when you have the backing of your client).

She also has a passion for great design and retail. It’s in her DNA. And something you can’t teach. If your people don’t love advertising, have a passion for it, it’s not going to work in the long term. Give them a gentle nudge to look for work somewhere else less demanding.

When your account team sees spending time with your clients as a punishment, you are in trouble…

Energy is an important factor as well. Energy is contagious and so is the lack of it. Make sure you have a lot of high energy people on your team.

And finally style. Mary Portas look the part. It’s a subject Scamp had discussed before but look and appearance always play a part in your reputation and presence. Look at John Hegarty.

He’s fashioned an image and style that says who he is without having to shout about it. Whatever you do, build an image consequently. Clients don’t look for replicates of themselves, but business partners that will provide them with a creative output they can’t reproduce.

8/ Use the right tools for the right job

Mary uses focus group to highlight the problems, not to find the solution. She is the expert, she knows what people will want, they don’t. She doesn’t have to research her concept to prove its good, but uses feedback and research to show where the opportunities are.

Dealing with change can be a painful experience. When Mary sees one of her client is feeling left out, she takes her out for a coffee and ask her what is going and tries to get her back on tracks. When’s the last time you had a one-to-one coffee with your main client? A heart to heart, genuine,  conversation, out of the office?

Go and get the right experts, who are credible in your clients’ eyes.

If you can’t get your clients out of their comfort zone, create videos to show them what they should be doing.

For example this 3 minutes video is a lot more powerful than the most amazing presentation

9/ Pull your finger out &  never give up

Gets your hands dirty, it’s not going to happen by sitting in front of your laptop. Delegate some parts to the good people in your team. Get started. Your clients wont change overnight so don’t lose hope, this is a big change and one for the long term. Don’t give up and you’ll harvest the results soon enough. It’s a brave new world…

10/ This is just a start, would love to hear yours.

And I will be available for a new challenge from September 2010, so if you hear of anything, send it my way!

10 indispensable apps for advertising chaps

January 27, 2010 4 comments

Hello everyone,

Having been forbidden from using an Iphone during my Nokia time at WK, I’ve been busy catching-up with this little technologic jewel. I don’t think I’ve been blown away by technology since the first time I accessed the Internet, 12 years ago.

In the last couple of months,  I’ve already spent hundreds of pounds trying every application that seemed vaguely interesting, and found quite a few that I think are indispensable for us advertising people. Most of them are based on the beliefs that you are someone curious who actually goes out, is interested in new things and happens to be on the go quite a lot. Otherwise, not much point I’m afraid!

Russell Davies, a few years ago,  famously said he would only hire planners who have a blog. Now that pretty much everyone has one, I’d be also very interested in having a peak at their Iphone to see what they use it for. And I’d be expecting to see quite a few of the ones below.

1/ A to-do app to get organised.

I personally use Todo. Once you get in the habit of updating it with the important and unimportant things you have to do, you will suddenly feel like a weight has been taken off your shoulder. Input a time for each task, and an alert will remind you when time is due. It’s so simple and easy to use it has become a life changer app already. It synches with the web service toddledo, so you can input your data on the web with your computer and still access your data from everywhere, it’s all saved on there for you, and you can even input your tasks straight there for more convenience.

I now have separated lists of things to do for work and home, assigned by projects (i.e. clients projects, with all the subsequent tasks associated and their due dates), plus the odd things I have to remember, like book a travel ticket and assign it to a time when I know I’m likely to be able to do it.

It’s just a question of routine, once you have got in the gist of doing it, you won’t regret it.

I also recommend the book Getting things Done. Its the poniest title ever, but has been of immense help for someone not naturally organised like me.

Other ones that I haven’t tried but look pretty good: Things, Pocket informant, and Omnifocus.

2/ A capture app

Capture apps are also growing in importance in my life.  They allow you to capture everything, from a picture to text, etc. and tag them. When I visited the V&A decode exhbition (highly recommended) I wanted to keep track of the installations descritions and artists names, so just snapped pictures of all of them, tagged them ‘digital art’ and decode, and they automatically were sent to my Evernote account, which meant they were ready for me to see when I arrived at work the next morning.

I also use it the other way around, as you can save entire online articles while browsing on your computer, and they are then automatically sent to your Iphone for offline reading.

I personally recommend Evernote, which I find fantastic.

The way you can browse your notes by location (as they are geo-tagged) is pretty amazing.

3/ Timeout

Love it, hate it, I actually find the app more helpful and stimulating than the actual magazine or website. For me Timeout has always suffered from an overdose of content, leaving me overwhelmed and incapable of making a decision.  There is such a thing as too much information.

But not the app, which allows me to search for things that are near me, but most importantly, the ‘inspire me’ section just aggregates the best of things to do. Perfect and ultimately, quite inspiring.  You have to give it to the peeps of Smirnoff as this is quite a good deal they made in the process. Hats off.

Another one you might want to consider is Spoonfed, which is not as good an app, but better for live music.

4/ Yelp

Yelp is really growing on me. Quite a recent app, it is garnering quite a peculiar following of enthusiasts that start reviewing every single bit of your neighbouroud. I actually find it fascinating and it somehow makes you feel stronger bonds with your community. It also happens to be quite helpful when in front of a restaurant you have never heard of.

The monocle section is also worth a look at, when you need inspiration on where to go for a quick bite or snack. As it shows you where everything is in an augmented reality way. This is actually useful. Although you do look like a geek in the street while using it and turning around.

5/ Spotify

Spotify! All the music in the world. For 10 euros a month. I’ve actually completely stopped downloading any music. Why download when you can stream? The best part being the playlist that you can create or share, you don’t even need to add the music, someone’s done it for you! For example, just click on the BBC 6 ‘best of 2009’ playlist on your computer, and bish bash bosh, it’s on your Iphone. And the cherry on the cake, you can actually download the whole playlist for offline listening. So when you get i nthe tube, it automatically switches on to your offline playlist.

I still find it hard to believe I can have access to pretty much any music, anywhere, at the tip of a finger.

6/ Foursquare

Now Foursquare is an interesting one. It’s a recent app, that hasn’t reached mainstream yet. Essentially, it allows you to get updates every time your friends go somewhere. If I go to a Pret, I can then ‘check in’ the Pret, for which Foursquare finds the location, and it will let all my friend now that I’m there. Foursquare also give you point for being the first one to check in new locations, and you can see your own ranking. It opens interesting opportunities for local initiatives, loyalty and driving footfall (say, everytime someone check-in a McDonalds, they get a free fries, or in a bar a free drink, etc)…

7/ Amazon

The Amazon app is actually pretty neat, almost dangerously, as its so easy to buy lots of stuff without even thinking about it. But the Amazon remembers is the cool bit, which allows you to take a picture of a movie, book or cd, which will then be automatically recognised by Amazon and give you the chance to order it straight away. Although I kind of miss Borders, so I might not be using it so much as to get all the local book shops to close.

8/ The Guardian

The Guardian is the ultimate news app. Another proof that the chap at the Guardian does really get digital. The app is a model of usability. I can download the entire content on my Wifi in the morning before my commute so I can read it in the tube. You can get access to all the podcasts from it. It’s just absolutely fantastic.

9/ Kindle or Stanza

I was skpetical about reading books on such a small screen, but it’s actually working quite well and I have been enjoying being able to read my books without having to carry them around. Stanza seems to be a better app, but Kindle seems to have more books. They are both free so you can always give it a go and see what suits you.

10/ Jamie Oliver

Now whether you like the man himself or not has nothing to do with the fact that this is one of the most impressive app in the market. You can see that lots of love has gone to this app and that when done right, it can also be extremely successful (this was the number one selling app for the Itunes for quite a few weeks I beleive).

The application is superbe in every aspect. All the content has been specifically thought FOR the Iphone. From being able to put all the ingredients in a shopping list, to the tutorial videos on how to cook simple things ,to step by step recipe with hi definition pictures. It’s perfection. And it actually got me into cooking. Sad, but true.

I also like the fact that there are only 55 recipes, so I don’t have to spend hours deciding which one I want. (Epicurious does that quite well.

(11) GAMES.

One should have games on an Iphone. Just to check them out. They are amazing. I would be disappointed not to at least find a couple of those in every Iphone: Real racing, Scramble, Pledge, Nova, Bejweled, Rolando, DoodleJump, Monkey Island(!),  Words with friends, etc. etc. There are just too many.

(12) WordPress, Facebook and a Twitter thingy, but I’d expect everyone to have them of course.

Hope this was helpful and please share your favourite ones.

Help needed – how to launch an advertising campaign

December 17, 2009 7 comments

I was kindly invited to present to the APG of Sweden a couple of weeks ago.

I didn’t really know what I wanted to talk about but had been playing with an analogy in my head for a few months: which is that we are in the business of launching satelittes (ideas) into space (our consumers mind).

That in itself is very simple, but in practice, very complex.

I’ve put together a presentation, but as with all these things, it takes forever to get it perfect, and I don’t have that time at the moment.

So I thouhgt I’d put it up there, and if it springs any ideas, please drop me a line.

If your ideas are any good, I’ll put them in the presentation and dedicate you the slide, with your picture and a link to your blog / website / twitter / whathaveyou. You will become an instant advertising celebrity overnight, your hair will grow thicker and you will start smoking the pipe.

Anyway, here it is:

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26/11/09 – the first creative club – a look at ARGs

November 26, 2009 4 comments

So history was in the making yesterday as we kicked off our first creative club here at RKCR/ Saint.

We had creative from both digital and traditional backgrounds together with me as the curator.

The point of these sessions were to provide a platform to discuss the good work that’s out there, but also get to talk about some obscures technological jargon and technology. The first of them being ARG (Alternative Reality Games for the non connoisseurs).

We started the session by doing a quick round up of what was new in the advertising world.

  • New-(ish) at least for me was the deal that Anomaly stroke with Lauren Luke. From Adweek:

By Lauren Luke is a line of cosmetics that is the signature line of Lauren Luke, a woman in Newcastle, Great Britain, who rose to YouTube fame through a series of how-to videos for applying makeup. The line is available at a brand Web site, and Anomaly is negotiating with retailers to get the cosmetics stocked in stores. Anomaly has also brokered a book deal for Luke and is negotiating with production companies about putting her on broadcast TV.

Now the genius bit is that every advertising agency looking at the growing influence of that girl would have thought: “how can we get her to endorse our beauty products”. But not Anomaly, who were quick to realise she should have her own brand. They look after the logistics and marketing, she just keeps doing what she loves. Win-Win situation. This is the future.

  • Justin Timberlake playing crazy ping pong with an American Footballer for a slightly unreal Sony commercial.

It’s funnish. BUT auto-tune the ad and it becomes freaking hilarious:

  • Ikea + facebook. Very clever Swede action.
  • Siny Suds, new ad from Droga. Just because it’s funny. And clever.
  • A mountain of websites:

Just because the website is amazing and the integration of twitter and the likes is very neat and actually has a purpose rather than just being a flow of tweets.

  • Art of the Trench for Burberry and from BBH

Just because it is a raelly neat way of showcasing your products. Bit of social media, subtly integrated. And they have managed to do what everyone had been trying to do for a long time. Get to work with the Sartorialist. Yes I’m jealous.

Then we had our creative interval.

That’s Marcel Proust.  He was a funny man. Spent most of his liffe on his bed. But he used to one thing that caught my attention. He used to cut newspapers headlines and make up the story around it, just because he found it a lot more interesting that the actual real story. So I cut some headlines from the Sun and the Daily Mail and gave them to the creative for them to make up the story around it. It was fun. And I can’t possibly publish the outcome of that as it would be too vulgar.

Moving on to the theme of the week: ARG.

What is an ARG (From the excellent The evolution of story)

An ARG is an interactive story that uses many channels, both real world and online, to create a game experience directly influenced by players
ARGs have typically existed outside the mainstream–customarily driven by a loyal, niche game community that finds and solves clues littered throughout the Web.
We then went on to show for of the best case studies from the 2 mots innovative companies in the field: 42 entertainment and Campfire.
1. First on the list was the AWESOME dark night ARG.

The case study and results are mental.

2. The equally awesome True Blood campaign

3. I love Bees for Halo 2

4. The mother of all ARG. Audi Art of the Heist. Just because I wanted to show them that you don’t need the back up of an entertainment property and the back-up of millions of already existing fans. You can create it from scratch.

5. Nokia ‘lost my phone’ campaign from WK

Now I used this campaign as an example of fail. I know sorry my WK friends, but this campaign was missing something vital in the success of an ARG. A point. A ‘why should I engage with it’ hook. The content is of amazing quality, it’s well written and the sheer amount of stuff that produced for it was mind blowing. But, it had no point aart from following 3 pre-fabricated young good looking characters.

6. The best thing I’ve seen this year by a mile

7.  a live ARG that’s far too complicated for me but which production values are amazing

It starts as a graphic novel and gives you control of the story. Prety neat. I just had choose your own adventure type of books when I was a kid. Those were the days…

More on that game here:

And a quick summary. There is obviously much more to say than that, but it’s a start:

  1. Don’t start with an ARG. Start with an idea. All the examples started with an idea, apart from the Nokia one that started with wanting to do an ARG.
  2. Know your audience. It’s not just for geeks. A Eurostar promotion for the Da Vinci code drew millions of visits to their game, most were coming from middle age women. Every kind of audience could be interested in playing as long as its designed for them and according to their interests.
  3. Use multiple media and channels, but treat each piece of content as a potential point of entry in the story / game. If you miss the beginning, it should always be easy to get started even half through.
  4. Plan for the mainstream (low involvement) as well as the hard core (high involvement). Only a tiny percent of your audience will want to go deep in an ARG. And that’s fine, just make sure you can participate into it without having to spend zillions of hours into it.
  5. Authenticity & credibility. Don’t lie or try to fool people. They’ll engage if they think it’s worth it. No need to hide your involvement until the end.
  6. Reward user involvement – Why should they take part in it?
  7. People engage with stories and characters – but you need a strong creative hook first. That’s the most critical point. WHat is the point? The creative hook? if  you can’t honestly answer that, don’t get started.
  8. Tie it back to the product / brand message.
  9. Work with specialists. You can’t do it all on your own.
  10. Only do one if you think you can gather enough fans to participate into it, otherwise you’ll fail miserably. And le’ts face it, ARG probably work better for entertainment properties… Or if you don’t have one, create one (i.e. Happiness factory for Coke could be turned into an ARG, etc.)
Next creative club session hopefully next week. Enjoy!

polar bears

November 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Just made me laugh.

Say no to winter blues! Enjoy the beach with a polar bear!

But don’t fly there or!



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On the inbreeding of ideas

November 24, 2009 6 comments

Hellooo everyone.

It’s been a while hasn’t it? Missed me?

Alright, let’s go straight into the thick of things.

Since I’ve been back to London, I have been extremely surprised by how a lot of campaigns seem to have been inbred.

Let’s look at the definition of inbreeding from good old Wik:

Inbreeding is a genetic term that refers to reproduction as a result of the mating of two animals which are genetically related to each other. If the relationship is a close one or it is practiced repeatedly, inbreeding can increase the chances of offspring being affected by recessive or deleterious traits. This generally leads to a decreased fitness of a population, which is called inbreeding depression

We are well aware of the consequences of inbreeding in the human population. Let’s look at a famous example in history:

A twisted family….  that had dramatic results:

The prevalent inbreeding in the Habsburg family genealogy, beginning in prior gen­er­a­tions, had given many in the family hereditary weaknesses and left the later generations prone to still-births. In Charles II, it resulted in being disfigured, physically disabled, and men­tally retarded.

This is what he looked like

Not a good look. Although I guess he could lick his nose. Which is always a good party trick to entertain the guests.

I digress. The point is what inbreeding does for humans, or animals, it does for ideas.

And there seems to be a couple of ideas that have had a lot of inbreeding lately. Let’s take a look at a few recent campaigns:

The very irritable “what would you do if you had free text” from T-Mobile

On a pure professional point of view, getting this campaign in 2009 is a bit suicidal if you ask me, as texts have been virtually free for a few years now. So this guy in the ad, has been STOPPED from accomplishing his dream of forming a super band all these years because the cost of text messages was too expensive. COME ON!Don’t get me started with the rest of the campaign.

Moving on:

“If I ruled the world” from Vodafone.

And the next

“The Internet is under new management: YOU!” Yahoo.

“Windows 7 – My Idea: Ramin’s Snap”

Where we found out that Windows Vista had been developed by random people.

I could go on forever.

To various degrees, they are all inbred from a main chain of thoughts:

Power to the people.  Power to the random people that is.

Someone has decided that what people want are software designed by people, not engineers. That we are interested in what ‘fake’ random people think. That our brands listen and pay attention to people. That we are big conglomerates but have a human voice. “Look at our campaign, we have real people in it. From the streets!”

I don’t want to be the new management of the Internet. I want someone who is paid to do that job to do it properly. Equally, I don’t want to pay hundreds of bucks to buy a software that has been designed by imbeciles. I just want it to work.

Besides, I don’t give a flying fuck about what people would do if they ruled the world or if they had unlimited text or Internet.

By trying to hold a mirror to our audience, we have completely failed in doing what we are supposed to do. Engage them. Tell our stories. Spectacle and narratives are the two most powerful forces at play in advertising. None of them come even close to using any of those.

It’s again another example of advertising looking into itself  for inspiration. So much similarity in insight, execution, tone, etc. is shocking. Our advertising is disfigured by all that inbreeding.

Great work comes from great insight and fresh executions. What’s happened to those? The courage to do something new? Fresh? Exciting? Spectacular?

Let’s stop the inbreeding of ideas right now and get some fresh blood into our DNA I say. And that starts with better insights and ideas.

Starting now.

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September 21, 2009 7 comments

Well, It’s been a busy month.

Bit of news on my side. I’m leaving Amsterdam to go back to London town.

I’ve enjoyed my year here, but London is where my heart is.

I’m going to join Saint next week.

How ironic I hear you say. Joining a digital agency after commenting on the death of online agencies.

Well you see, people who know me would say typical.

First, I join a very nice group of people over at Saint. Young, talented and passionate.

I’m going back to my first love (digital that is), and will try to change the industry as much as I can.

I look forward to the challenge.

Be ready for more.


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digicynic on holiday for 2 weeks

a bientot les amis

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The difference a year can make

July 28, 2009 1 comment

I had stopped posting for about 10 months. Just got too busy with my new job.

Before that, I had been blogging for about a year, almost daily. I had built a readership of about 500 readers a week. My most popular post, ‘how to have a successful career in advertising‘, culminated at about 5000 views. But they were mainly due to the now defunct Scamp linking to my blog. God knows how many visitors he was getting daily!

But the point is, a year ago, most of my traffic was coming from other blogs linking to mine and from my readership (through Netvibe, Feeds and Google reader), and the odd forward email.

After a year, I thought I’d have pretty much lost everyone who used to read the blog, apart from a handful of people who would have forgotten to delete my blog from their RSS aggregator.

I wrote the post ‘the end of the road for digital agencies‘ just to see if it’d get picked up. It didn’t. So I decided to spam my virtual friends, and shared it on Facebook, as probably half of the people I know work in advertising and digital. That would be about 150.

So that got picked up by a few people and the blog ended up with about 300 views, which I thought as rather encouraging. Even though I could see that it only did a few rounds in some digital agencies in London that I must have annoyed.

I reiterated the same process for the last post ‘10 things to do for digital agencies‘. But something happened. From my Facebook friends, in a matter of minutes, itwas first picked up by, whom I don’t know. But he’s got a good following on Twitter. And then somehow ended on Ben Shaw‘s twitter feeds.  And then bang it was gone.

3 business days later, the post has been read by 1,600 people, as of Monday evening.

50% of that traffic came directly from the first 4-5 people who were first to picked it up, but then created a second, bigger wave of twitter feeds.

I’d say out of that, 30% was indirect traffic coming from Twitter, people finding it in Twitter and passing it on. It is quite interesting to follow how people were sometimes adding some variations to the headline to make it more punchy:

’10 things digital agencies should be doing‘,

’10 things all digital agencies should be doing ‘

’10 things all digital agencies should be doing – right now!’

I find it fascinating to look at how it has spread from one tweet to another, from one country to another. The chronogical history of who spread the tweets  reveals different spheres of influence.

So it must have stroke a chord with our digital audience. But strangely, overall only 2 blogs linked to it, and drove minimal traffic to the post. Barely no one bothered to link to it from a website anymore. They were all tweeting it.

About 5% of the traffic came from Facebook, but other than my link update. [I know that doesn’t make 100%. I’m leaving room for error.]

And now after these glorious three days and some very nice comments, I’m witnessing the post slow death into the digital abyss.

Without Twitter, this post wouldn’t have reached the usual couple of hundreds.There wouldn’t have been a tool out there for people to spread it so easilyand rapidly.

Watching it rise and decline in a matter of hours was strangely addictive. No big insight here, just wanted to share what was to me a new discovery with you, dear anonymous reader. Not twitter, of course, but the fact that people would actually tweet my ugly, long, badly written, wordy post, that did not include any ground breaking augmented reality business card thingy or the new HD trailer of Tron. I was incredibly surprised by its power.

I hear a lot of power moaning that Twitter is becoming a link sharing facility, no more mood updates as it was supposed to be and what it had been originally build for. But as William Gibson said, “The street finds its own uses for things.” And I personally think this is where its future’s at.

I’m going on holiday as of the end of the week.

Be good.

10 things to do for digital agencies

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I got a bit of heat from my last post, ‘the end of the road for online agencies?’. So I thought if it’s easy to criticize, it is more difficult to come up with solutions. So here it is, 10 things digital agencies could do to kick advertising agencies arses. If they had one. I know a lot of digital agencies do parts of it, but, to my knowledge, they could do a lot more.

Ideas come from great talent, and talent wants two things: creative environment and creative opportunities. I’d even argue that comes before money.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, there are obviously more. And this is just my personal opinion based on my experience with both worlds.

1.    Get serious about sharing

Sharing new stuff, sharing old stuff, sharing ideas, sharing new work, opportunities, technology… shouldn’t be left to the odd group email.
It should be someone’s responsibility to collect and share the good stuff.
Creative, technologist and planners should sit down and share opinions on a regular basis.
As a technology company, a system to collect and share cool things should be put into place.
The Barbarian group shares briefs with the all agency. What new ways can we think to make sharing a natural and inspired part of the life of agency rather than just a nice to have?

At glue, we used to sit down every week with the creative and talk about new stuff, share ideas, explore new opportunities. It was great and I missed it when I left to BBH. This is definitely more likely to happen in digital agencies. Make the most of it.

2.    Put technology out of the technology department

A lot of the coolest digital ideas have come out of the technology department. We need to embrace technology as part of what we do, and try to monitor and spread new technological opportunities to the whole agency.

Too many times creative technologists (everyone seems to have a different funky name for them) are ostracized from the creative process and only involved when ideas have been fully formed (which they end up having to kill most time on on feasibility grounds).

I hear AKQA’s FIAT grand prix idea came from technologists who found the data and just thought it’d be cool to do something with it. And then got helped by planners and creatives to make it what it is now.

AKQA is a technology led company, but how often do you let technologists play with idea and data?

Read: creative technologists in brand advertising.

3.    Invest in your future talents

If you can’t afford the big names, you might need to play it like Arsene and invest in young talent. Training new talent is a key in long term growth and one of the only way I can think for digital agencies to compete with the big agencies and network.
Bringing fresh new blood is vital in creative industries and this should be especially true in a fast moving industry like digital.

Investigate ways to train your people, put a graduate programme together. Let’s form the next generation of digital workers.
I know some digital agencies have design partnerships, basically with Hyper Island, but it should be extended to other departments and should be made more serious and official.
BBH and Ogilvy graduate programme attract hundreds of applicants every year for 3-4 positions. But once you make it, you are then being trained properly:

What makes the Ogilvy Fellowship Scheme unique to London’s communications industry? Well, we think Einstein once said (maybe): “6 weeks of initial training + 3 different companies/3 years = The best training in the business”.

Or for something a little more funky:

The WK 12 program is an intensive, in-house “school” that puts a diverse group through 13 months of hard learnin’ about the ad business.  They come out the other end having worked on some of the most creative and demanding advertising accounts in the world, handled by one of the most forward-thinking and innovative agencies known.  As put by the WK 12 business director, Elena Cartasegna, “We refer to WK 12 as an exeriment disguised as a school disguised as an agency.”  Whatever.  You mix it all up and you get learning, new energy and ideas, a combination that’s bound to produce something of value.

And another WK initiative I really like

Platform is a future creative talent platform, which will hire, teach and work with a diverse mix of people, from around the world. We will recruit talent from the arts, sciences and technology backgrounds who will work together to solve business problems through creative solutions. You will learn by doing which means being involved in everything from building prototypes, enabling and assisting in research development to curating your very own event space and programme.

4.    Mix things up

I have said before that the mistake most advertising agencies make is to look at each other’s work for inspiration. I’m afraid digital is guilty of the same thinking. Digital agencies are self-obsessed about digital and often only look into digital for inspiration.

It’s one thing to be up-to-date with a medium, it’s another to be blinded by digital obsession.

The best ideas are fueled by digital but are not made for digital.

All virals are black swan, and tweaking something already popular online won’t get you very far. The key is to create these new things. And it sometimes requires working with people outside of the industry.

Imagine having a pool of comedians, professional comedy writers, philosophers, scientists, journalists, artists, etc. you could tap into depending on your brief? Imagine you can mix them up with your super digital skills?

Too many times digital creative teams are being asked to be a jack of all trade, but it’s pretty hard to be excellent in many different disciplines. So go get the right experts, and yes, that means outside of our digital circle and comfort zone.

Your ideas will only be more likely to be Fresh and get that ‘viral’ spice we are all looking for.

5.    Foster the creativity of your people

Sid lee collective, Sid Lee’s creative incubator, develops, catalyses, promotes and finances various projects that push the notion of Commercial CreativityTM to its limits, and, we hope, beyond.

They offer bursaries and support to our artisans to make their ideas happen.

Why not have similar projects in-house, developing new applications, websites and technology from our own people, and using it as portfolio of creativity and technology?

Advertising agencies have also started creating their own brands and products:


Bartle Bogle Hegarty is launching two new brands, created in-house by the agency’s brand invention company Zag. Pick Me, a vegetable ready-meal, has launched in Tesco and a personal alarm system called Ila Dusk will debut in Marks & Spencer.

Anomaly IP

We believe in the power and values of ideas. Consequently, we develop, invest, incubate and curate new ideas, products and properties.

Again, what is stopping us from spotting gaps in the digital landscape and developing our own digital brands when we have the knowledge and skills in house?

6.    Be a freaking pioneer

As digital agencies, it should be in the DNA of most agencies to constantly innovate and pioneer new technology, new ways of working, new models of communication. Digital agencies should be writing the rules of the game. But I feel they have been resting on their laurels and the most provoking digital thinking now seems to come from advertising agencies.

BBH Labs is getting quite a lot of buzz on the digital scene, yet none of their writers has actually spent any time working in digital agencies. Credits to them as the quality of their input is remarkable.

Just saw the CPB group (beta) new website and it’s pretty cool.

Most of the blogs I read from digital peeps or digital agencies blogs tend to focus on ‘cool stuff’ and new technology, with little insight and thinking. They somehow reinforce the feeling that one should go to a digital agency to get some funky viral or cool new Iphone app, but is not where great digital thinking will be taking place.

7.   Regroup

Form a collective to represent and promote digital creativity. The IAB is doing a fine job at promoting industry standards for digital. But are we waiting on the IPA and other APG, AAAA and other awards shows  to represent the interest of the industry at large? Do we need to wait for Campaign to invite a bunch of digital gurus to talk about the future of this industry, once a year?

Should we not be fighting for our own rights? Promoting what we think is digital creativity? Making digital a respectable and viable career choice for students?

8.    Social media

Again, I’m surprised to see how quiet most digital agencies have been on the subject. No one seems to have made any efforts to go out there and have a point of view about it. It seems that most have just thought they can integrate it within their services by adding the goold old Facebook and twitter bit at the end of a strategy.

So it left the space opened for specialists. Made by Many is the only one I can think of, and guess what… they are thriving. They have you to thank for that. (Update, forgot Awesome We are social. Mistake now corrected.)

Let’s recognize that social media is a beast on its own and should be treated with such regards. Maybe put someone in charge and launch a social media service department? Demonstrate that creativity can exist in social media? That it can deliver results?

9.    Put the fun back into advertising

I’m sorry but most digital agencies seem so conventional and a little…. boring! Don’t get me wrong. I think you get a better quality of ‘life’ (work?) in digital agencies. More respect, somehow decent hours, maybe you might even be allowed to play music in the office. But somehow, it doesn’t seem to cut it. I think we all love a bit of craziness, parties, ambiance. It doesn’t have to cost the earth, but I think more can be done to make digital agencies much better working environment than their advertising agencies counter part.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, most of us have chosen that career because it was supposed to be fun! (ah the good old days…)

I can only think of Sid Lee as an example of an agency that has put fun at the heart of its vision. And god, I had the best 2 years of my life working there. You could be assured something was happening every couple of week or so, from a bbq on the terrace to DJs coming to the agency (unannounced) to the annual party that would always get the whole industry begging for tickets. It all came down from the one man, JFB, who is a famous for being a bit of a party monster. He has never been afraid to just do what they wanted. I sometimes feel most digital agencies could do with a bit more balls. Every agency can throw a party. It takes a lot more to create a culture. And this is exactly what attracts talent. I can think of BBH, Fallon, Mother, WK cultures. I can’t think of the culture of any of the top 10 digital agencies.

Fun doesn’t have to cost money. There are so many creative ways to have cheap fun. It only requires a bit of effort from management. And that can make a huge difference.

Have a look at Work club’s blog. Seems like a pretty cool place to work for?

10.    PR the hell out of it

(WK London extraordinaire Kevin Chesters and Nic Owen in action)

Now if you read any of the above thinking, we have been doing it for years! Well, you shouldn’t keep it to yourself, and share it to the world! And treat it seriously for the love of god. These are all important points that require attention, money and resources. They should not be given to the intern, but come from top management. Neil Christie, the MD, writes the WK blog (or used to). What does it say about the agency? If he can do it, why can’t MDs and CDs of digital agencies? Come on Cridgy, you can do better than that. 😉

Again, don’t underestimate the power of blogs. I have always thought WK were a cool agency before working there, solely on the basis of their blog (sad but true).

But there are dozens of other more interesting ways to PR, properly, all of the above. So get started.

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