Monday, 30 March 2009

The APG Young Talent Award

Hi all

To try and attract the most talented and creative students into the industry, the APG has recently launched a new prize to celebrate the power of students’ creative thinking. The APG Young Talent Award is a nationwide competition that asks students to design an original brand from scratch that will appeal to people of their age. The entries will be judged by a panel of experts from the leading agencies in the industry as well as a venture capitalist looking to invest in the very best thinking.

This is a great opportunity for students looking to get into advertising. Not only will you get to flex your creative muscles at something far more interesting than anything else going on but you also have the chance to bathe in the glory of having your work published and seen by pretty much anyone who is anyone in the industry.

Check out the APG site to find out more.

....also I'm one of the judges so am more than open to bribery:

Grads Down The Track: Sam Haynes & Lee Trott

A hobbit and a wise man. Truth.

Here's another story from some intrepid grads learning the ropes. Only this time, they aren't planners or account handlers - these chaps are junior creatives at Lowe London, where they have the pleasure/misfortune (delete as appropriate) of working with me.


“Welcome to advertising,” said Ed Morris.

This was the moment when half a years’ worth of sweat and blood finally paid off. The placement at Lowe had been a rollercoaster for us. Not least of all because we were still in our final year at Saint Martins and trying desperately to juggle this fantastic opportunity along with a degree that we were so close to finishing.

It was an intense baptism of fire for us noobies, who had only ever been on one placement: 2 weeks with no work at AMV. If truth be told, thinking back to some of the layouts we were presenting in our first few weeks on placement is not a pleasant experience. But what we lacked in discipline and experience we made up for in energy.

If you throw enough darts eventually you’ll hit the bulls-eye. This was our rather haphazard way of learning what a good idea looks like. Incidentally, it’s also how we got the placement in the first place. In our second year of university, we sent out 600 emails and got only 5 placement offers. That’s less than 1% return! That’s a lot of darts, and a lot of injured bartenders.

And that’s after painstakingly trawling through D&AD annuals in an effort to piece together the email addresses of different companies. But then, rejection is an enormous part of this job. Get used to it. But that process is forgotten in an instant when you’re walking the green mile to Ed Morris’ office on Judgement Day. It was terrifying. We wanted to believe that we’d done enough to secure a job, but we couldn’t quite let ourselves hope. But get it, we did.

Go to up to roof and scream like girls, we did. But the fear doesn’t really leave you. At least it hasn’t for us. Even now we spend most of our time terribly insecure, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. It makes you try harder. We both hold true to the idea that energy wins over talent, and although we’re still honing the talent part, at least we’ve got the first one down!

But this year something seems to have clicked. What that something is we’re not entirely sure. The random dart-throwing that got us the job seems to have focussed itself a little. But then, practise makes something a little closer to perfect.

We’re not there yet by any stretch of the imagination, but at least now it feels like there’s some method to the madness. It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be, which is quite a reassuring thought when you’re just starting out in this dog-eat-dog business. So what humble advice can we offer those who are only just starting out, based on almost 2 years of trial and error?


Find it. Whether you’re at an agency or still at college, there’s always something you could be doing. OpenAd, for example, is a great way to test yourself amongst other working creatives, and earn some pocket money on the side.


We cannot stress this enough. Even if you haven’t quite cracked strategic thinking, if you can come up with 70 storyboards in a day, a Creative Director is going to notice. That’s how we got our first TV ad through. Nail this, and with the right guidance talent will come. We hope.


Don’t just stick to the usual advertising formats. The possibilities are infinite. Whether it’s a sponsorship event, an idea for a new product, a mobile phone applications, or even a silly loading bar design you came up with on the bus, get it down. You can reign-in the ideas later. Go nuts. That’s the fun part.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Junior Planning 101..

Books you should know about/have read. Picture via Russell. Usual rules apply.

Inspired by Adland Suit's two posts for Junior Account handlers (as well as some advice for finding your way), I thought I should write a little missive for grad planners, or planners who've only just started. (Yes, the APSOTW is also bloody useful for this, so go read that too).

I'll preface this all by saying i'm really, still, a baby planner myself (just over 2 years of being a planner), so i'm still learning some of these - and feel free to chip in if there's something i've missed/can add to another post.

Anyway, on with the post.

1) You're bright; you aren't useful yet. A lot of planners will be incredibly bright chaps and chappesses who like the thinking behind brands and much more - how the mind works, the social impact of the decline of the Norwegian leather industry in 1980, anime and so on - but that's not immediately useful. All that said; you're still basically an interested student. You don't really have knowledge of client relationships, of business or even of how to talk to different 'types' of creative. So don't waltz in and expect to have it handed to you - it's extremely unlikely you'll have creatives coming up to you and listening to you from the off. You may have a first from your University and have been academic hot shit; that doesn't mean anything in the real world.

2) Data's one of your weapons. No-one else in the agency will know the penetration of yellow fats in lower income households. You must suck up this sort of data - it's vital business information, and it means, effectively, you can participate in conversations with the client, with creatives, and with account management. Without it, you've got the square root of fuck all - senior planners can go with their gut because they've done it before. You can't.

3) Smugness will not be tolerated. You are a planner, and that means you have to get on with people. By all means be a grumpy fucker now and then (sometimes it's a useful tactic when trying to get your thinking heard), but if you are perceived as smug, you've entirely destroyed your value. Think about it. If you're smug (though the agency and client may believe you know what you're talking about) you won't be perceived as empathetic, and it's a killer. Planners have to understand their audience; they can never truly 'know' what punters are going to do next. You can have a damned good understanding, but if you get into a routine where you think you know the audience better than themselves, you're kidding everyone, and the work and your relationships will reflect that. You're in a privileged position, being paid to think - don't abuse it.

4) Don't be too quiet. It's oh so easy to retreat into an ivory tower of thinking, just because that's what you used to do when writing about Milton's England or convalent bonding. This is advertising; it is not a place for the timid. You're being employed for your opinions, so speak up. Also, you're (again) in a damn privileged position to be able to talk to more senior suits and clients than your junior account handler counterpart; so you have to be able to bring your thoughts to the table. Obviously, don't be too loud and opinionated, as everyone will hate you - but for God's sake, don't be the bright quiet (and ultimately useless) one.

5) Work on your ability to think laterally. By this, I don't mean reading and regurgitating planning books (though reading several of them is a good idea). I refer instead to reading, as my old boss says, 'weird shit'. Read/watch stuff which opens your mind. You'll never know when that quote from Howard's End can be used to help reposition your automotive brief, or what a tea brand can learn from Grandaddy. Spouting things about a 'purpose idea' or a 'lighthouse identity' is old news. You should know it, but don't be over reliant on it. Lots of baby planners talk about the same old shit. How's that going to create interesting communication, or good propositions?

6) Job title is unimportant. I was told by Charles and Richard a while ago, that there's no such thing as a junior planner. You either are one or you're not. Took me a while to realise, but I think it relates to point 4 - senior and junior planners alike are paid for their informed opinions. This also relates to whatever prefix comes before 'planner'. Digital, comms, integrated, account - planners should be able to think in every discipline. After all, it's ideas and strategies you are dealing with - would that TV spot be able to work in digital? Why not? Could it be shared? Again, don't become a discipline snob, or assume that because you've specialised, you know best. Absolute nonsense, that.

7) Account management are your friends. These guys go through hell and back to keep the show on the road, so you should show them the utmost respect. All you do is think. Who's got the easier job? Don't be surprised if your account team don't know x or y about a brand or market - often, they are problem solvers, and often don't have time to stop and consider certain issues like you do. They aren't stupid, or 'unstrategic'. Just because you're the planner on the business doesn't mean you automatically know best. Account handlers are just as bright as you - but focused on other areas. Also, whilst your job is increase knowledge on the account now and then you'll find yourself doing some basic account handling. It may not be what you signed up for, but maintaining the client relationship is paramount, and if you are sometimes involved in writing a cheeky contact report or leading the relationship on one project, it should accepted without a grumble.

8) More Powerpoint doesn't mean better thinking. If account handlers have contact reports as their personal hell, then for planners, it's got to be the endless competitive reviews, especially when you're starting out. You'll note that some clients seem to think the longer the presentation, the better it is. Well, let me tell you that no-one learned anything from the 150+ slide presentation which was presented last time. Far far better to keep it to 30 slides of well thought out thinking than bombarding with endless ads and miscellaneous thinking. Plus, as Jon Steel put it in the Perfect Pitch, no-one speaks like Powerpoint; so why present most thinking on it? Far better, more often than not, to chat to your client about things.

9) Information is fine, but filtration is best. You've been employed because they think you can deal with all different types of data - from quotes to sales statistics. What you need to do is synthesise the data into something your client and all the agency folk you deal with can understand. This is a large, large part of your role, and one where it pays to talk to senior planners about what they'd ignore and what they'd use. It's all too easy to get bogged down in data; the crappest planners offer too much in the hope they're doing the right thing.

10) Find a mentor. As mentioned in other points, you don't know jack at this stage. But, assuming you know what you don't know, you should realise planning is a bit of a beast to try and learn all by yourself. Perhaps you have been lucky enough to find someone at your new/current agency who can show you the ropes and advise you (because, God knows - whether junior or senior, all planners need advice now and then). Or perhaps you haven't. If you haven't, go and find one! Read planning blogs (like Northern Planner's excellent series of planning tips) and exchange emails - go to APG events, meet other planners. The APG's introduction to planning is terrific to teach, and to help you meet your peers. You'll find people who inspire you, and people who can mentor you; they'll go on helping you throughout your career.

Phew. There are a few tips for you guys. Any other folk who have other suggestions, stick 'em in the comments.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Before You Get In...

Kilgour's finest. Picture via Sleevehead. Usual rules apply. should probably read about what the job's *really* like.

By my own confession, I was a pretty bloody rubbish account handler. As a result of this, i've got tremendous respect for those who can do the job well.

A new blog has started, one called Adland Suit.

Mr Suit is a senior suit at an agency, and writes candidly about what the job's like, and how he/she/it is finding things.

Well, he/she/it has just written an excellent post on what the job entails. Have a read of this - 'everything is your fault'. Great stuff, and it takes no prisoners.