digicynic on holiday for 2 weeks

a bientot les amis

Categories: Uncategorized

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 http://twitter.com/fruchter, 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

Short url for this post: http://tr.im/ubf2

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.

Enjoy. Tweet this: http://tr.im/ubf2

The end of the road for online ad agencies?

Ah, the cyber lions. I’m always excited about the results. Not sure why really, as I could have predicted about 90% of the results right.

Anyway. What’s surprising and seems to have gone unnoticed, is that the cyber lion category, a category once dominated by pure play digital players, is now dominated by advertising agencies.

Let’s have a look at the gold winners:

BBH New York
OGILVY & MATHER Düsseldorf
BBH London
DROGA5 New York

Yes sir, part from AKQA’s grand prix, digital advertising agencies have been remarkable… by their absence. Glue, Poke, RGA, Dare, Profero, Lean mean fighting machine, the Swedish ones, have not got one gold between them. (I don’t count the silver and bronze). Boondongle seems to be the only web agency to be represented. [Got to love that banner concert idea.] The viral factory is always there, but I wouldn’t put them into the digital agencies bandwagon. Oh, almost forgot Bridge worldwide. so that’s 2 out of 11 winners. Please also note they both won for banners.

Anyway, what does it mean? It means that advertising agencies have got their act together. Dominic Goldman, creative director, has digitalized BBH and showed that it only takes one man to make great digital advertising. He is the Barnados mastermind (and last year’s Mentos campaign).

He is obviously the exception, but constantly shows that with the right talent and connection,  advertising agencies like BBH can deliver the best digital work. Better than so called ‘specialists’. Talking about BBH, they got 3 cyber golds. They were laughed at couple of years ago by online agencies for their efforts to gear up in digital, and they did make some mistakes along the way, but who’s laughing now?

It also means that the digital agencies can’t play the ‘They-don’t-get-it’ card anymore. Or ‘they-don’t-have-techy-people-in-house’. Who cares? Get good creatives who gets digital in, tech-savvy producers,  outsource to the best digital production houses, and you are in business.

It’s the end of an era for me and I’m afraid I can’t really see it changing.

My friend David Lee, one of the most talented digital creative of the hour has just left WK London for… another ad agency… TBWA Digital Arts in NY.

Just here in WK Amsterdam, we’ve got the art director of Get the glass, and Edu and Jab from Spanish digital hotshop DoubleYou.

The talent problem will always be there for digital agencies. Talented creative will always want to work for the BBH, Fallon, CP+B, WK or Goodby of this world. They are just waiting for the call, no matter what they are saying. They are lying.

Going from glue to BBH felt like being promoted to the Premiere league (no disrespect to glue at all that I still love). I’m talking about going from digital to advertising.  From being the last thing on your client’s agenda to being the first. From having to adapt some shit ATL strategy online to being on the driving seat of global brands. From a 50,000 pounds budget to millions.

It just is more exciting. As long as digital agencies will not be ‘owning’ relationships with their clients, they will never be able to compete with their advertising agencies counter part to lure talent. And no talent means no awards. Which means no PR. No new business, etc. Repeat until extinction.

Some like glue have always see it coming and have always positioned themselves as being an advertising agency specialised in digital. Only recently have they finally justified it by netting 3 in the UK, which I applaud them for.

But the rest is better hurry before they either disappear or get transformed into production arms of others advertising agencies and end up just building websites and banners.

Digital agencies were supposed to take over the advertising world.

I sincerely hope this will serve as a wake up call for the industry and that they will be back challenging for honours next year.

At least I know the Viral Factory will  be there. They seem to have an uncanny habit of always winning at Cannes. Well done chaps.

The theory of Sway in advertising

April 27, 2009 4 comments

Lots of interesting stuff from the book Sway, the irresistible pull of irrational behaviour.

The initiator is the person who’s always agitating for change, whether it’s trying a new place for dinner or reorganizing the living room. This person is never satisfied with the status quo.

The blocker is the initiator’s alter ego. This person tends to resist change of any kind. Instead, he sees – with an Eeyore-like sameness – the risk in everything.

The observer doesn’t take sides but rather documents what’s going on. Observers are the people who summarize a debate in neutral terms, allowing rational decisions to be made.

The supporter tends to take sides and drives a decision by casting the “deciding vote.” Supporters are unpredictable, which makes their decisions influential. They make decisions based on the merits of the argument rather than allegiances.

In advertising, it seems that creative would be the initiators and planners the blockers. But because of the dynamic existing in advertising, it is a very sensitive game to play for planners, who are often not perceived good enough to judge, let alone ‘block’ ideas they think are not good enough.

I have witnessed (very) bad ideas making it through because of the initiator felt so strongly about it, no one dared telling him it was bad. As the author of the book says:

“A strong initiator can quell a blocker.”

The risks are significantly higher in the airline industry. Research indicates that a large percentage of plane crashes have been caused by pilots who, as confident and optimistic initiators, attempted dangerous maneuvers. The other members of the cabin crew, too respectful of the captain’s authority and swayed by the captain’s optimism, remained silent.

To address this risk, airline cabin crews are being provided with Crew Resource Management training to learn to become potential blockers when faced with bad or overly optimistic decisions by those in authority. This training program was designed by NASA and is intended to catch bad decisions before they result in loss of life. (Brandon Hall)

“When pilots spot a departure from safety procedures, they are trained to challenge the captain.”

Now hear me out, agencies will always thrive on initiators. They are our most important assets and they should always feel like they can push ideas. But we need to put in place blockers that are respected by these initiators, so when an idea is not good, it can be blocked before it is too late.

Maybe having to share ideas with other CD who are neutral to it? I don’t think planners will ever have the credibility to be effective blockers without jeopardizing their relationship with their CD. It’s so easy to give up on trying to stop an idea by fearing of being seen as the negative one. Could there be a programme where creative have to convince another team of their ideas? should it be a person coming from outside the agency?

4 months, 1 post

February 10, 2009 3 comments

Pathethic isn’t it? Truth is, I don’t think I can manage my current job and keeping this blog up-to-date with the kind of content I want to.

Every time I feel like I’m getting on top of  my things to do, more come my way. The job is about twice more intense than the one I had at BBH. Which was pretty intense in the first place. Lot more on, less people involved. Not a good recipe for blogging time!

So, I end up working on average 10-12 hours a day, and the last thing I fancy after that, is to sit some more in front of a computer. Between you and me, I use to do it at BBH. Here I just can’t do it at work.

Although I do want to keep it up to date, at the end of the day, I’d rather spend this precious hour chilling and relaxing.

So I’m putting this blog on hold for the moment. I’ve met great people through it and I hear I have inspired a few. I hope to be able to resume normal activity soon, but keeping one’s job seems to be the priority of the day!

Keep it up and always happy to stay in touch with you chaps.

You know where to find me.

Categories: Uncategorized

Heard today

January 21, 2009 4 comments

We have developed an interactive website to support the campaign. I kept wondering… how could a website  be anything but interactive?

Categories: Uncategorized