Thursday, 30 April 2009

A NABS talk you might be interested in..

Good advice, that. For some reason the NABS logo wouldn't show up.

Hello all.

NABS are hosting a talk on May 14th which we thought you might be interested in.

It's in conjunction with the History of Advertising Trust (brilliantly named HAT), and is going to be held as the London College of Fashion.

There's going to be an all star lineup of the industry's leading creative types - copywriters, ADs and directors. Sir John Hegarty will chair - with the panel picking their 3 favourite ads from the archive of every TV ad submitted to the BTAA since 1977.

Go along. It'll be good. There are more details here.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

I Got Ya Partner

How totally and utterly shit was Lethal Weapon 4? I mean 3 was totally shit and then 2 was just shit whereas the first was totally and utterly awesome. Lethal Weapon seemed to provide us with no slow decline into the belly of total and utter shit. Aliens at least gave us a bumpy ride which led you to watch the next incarnation with a degree of hope that they could pull it off….all hope of which was lost after Alien 3.

Anyway, this has nothing to do with what I’m writing about. Just that I’ve wanted to use a Lethal Weapon image for some time and write a post about partnership being a nice way to pull off interesting stuff.

So, Burger King go to Crispin Porter + Bogusky and tell them there’s a Sponge Bob Square Pants meal coming out. CPB rather than throwing their arms up in the air saying this will totally contradict the brand strategy of targeting the Superfan (16+ year old guys who like computer games, girls and controversial humour) they say ‘ok, we’ll do a rap song about square butts and not show the food at all, then we’ll launch it as a music video’. Burger King say ok and a King (of sorts) was born:

I’ve often used and heard the term ‘perfume advertising’ as a way of describing something that limps with a vacuous and very non-genuine nature likened to Tony Blaire’s smile. However, when Gucci decided that rather than approach doing scent ads in black and white with models crawling over each other or walking on a New York roof top why not partner with Chris Cunningham and do something different. As a result the category norms are broken and stuff is made that stands out……and for the right reasons.

Numerous other examples are out there such as Nike & Apple, Breitling & Bentley, Top Shop & Kate Moss maybe even Destiny’s Child and Nirvana. Partnerships when done well seem to take category standard and mash up something new and wonderful.

What seems to run through all great partnerships are 3 things i) A skill set which is best in class ii) A common interest and iii) Courage. The third being the most important in order not to slightly dabble but to fully commit to appearing as one.

What seems crazy is that not that many agencies are pro-actively getting their clients to meet up with partners in film, music, clothing, cars etc. Surely the ad industry should be the shepherd to these partnerships rather than allowing them to…..well….just happen like the Beckham and Gillette marriage which is uglier to watch than his actual one. As opposed to the Beckham and Adidas affair which was much more sexier….you do get that I’m referring to Rebecca Loos. Anyway, my point being that the more exciting partnerships generated in the name of creating difference and rule breaking the better coz Riggs was small and Murtaugh was tall and together they made a difference by busting special service trained crime lords…which is no small feat.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Keep Your Innocence And Act Plainly...

This is you. Before your mum gets shot. Photo via Free Of The Demons. Usual rules..

Recently, I had a very interesting chat with a planning friend of mine about planning development.

Unlike most roles, planning doesn't really have defined job titles for each level - you don't go from exec, to manager to director to whatever it is. No no, you are a planner for most of your days. This obviously means that decisions made on your salary and your position are partly made on how long you've been in the business, and what you've achieved (ie, whether you've been involved in pitch wins, whether you've won the odd APG or IPA Effectiveness award).

And it was when we were talking about this that he mentioned something interesting about more junior planners. About how, until you are about two years into planning, you have a glorious naivety which means you can sometimes have the midas touch, before you get a bit more bogged down with the 'right' way to do things.

It's rather like the analogy Scamp was drawing with creatives being like children. Whilst there are positives and negatives to take from this (I personally think it was just trying to say creatives need to have 'innocent eyes' before tackling most problems, which is no bad thing), I do think something similar happens with baby planners.

The chat went on - apparently, between two and say six, you are still formulating your 'voice', and prone to anxiety as you can't be quite so innocent as before, as half theories can't just be dismissed with a hearty 'aaah, he/she/it is a junior'.

Now, this interests me, because I am a two year old planner - and I do look around, and wonder what I'm missing out going forward. Should I be more data driven? Are groups the answer? Should the creatives be involved upstream, downstream or should the boat be overturned? (Yes, i'm being sarcastic).

Well, reading a post that Mr Suit wrote about the importance of writing got me thinking (a dangerous thing) about this.

If we accept that this innocence comes from not knowing any better, then surely what we should aim to do going forward (at every level) is to speak and write as plainly as possible?

I've often ranted on Wannabe Ad Man about pseudo-intellectual bollocks that planning tends to wallow in if left unchecked. Let's be clear, right from the off - when you begin in planning, you aren't writing the next great American novel, and nor are you trying to add another level to Maslow's hierarchy of human needs.

I think a lot of planners, without any job title inflation to take account of their awe-inspiring intellect, fall into this trap of assuming they 'have' to be clever when briefing, speaking, or behaving in the agency.

This is especially true of baby planners, or midweight planners realising that Bambi's mum has just been shot in front of them, and they can't make the same rash assertions as they used to. I also think that certain industry stereotypes that are put forward further this, along with bad mentoring.

It is easy to do though, given your background in University; for example - I wrote my dissertation on John Milton and Thomas Hobbes's major texts, Paradise Lost and Leviathan. Both incredibly complex, both which were attempted to be simplified; but that didn't stop me (as it was an intellectual essay) from trying to be clever and compare the two.

This absolutely, positively, categorically does NOT wash in adland. You have to be a funnel, to not confuse people - you aren't speaking or writing to a professor with 30 years of understanding a topic - you are talking to creatives who want a straightforward answer that they can use as a springboard to make great work from.

So act plainly. Speaking and presenting is just as important for you as it is for account handlers - and so is writing, presentation and generally being in the agency. How will you know whether you've succeeded? Creatives will seek you out; account handlers will want to include you in every discussion. Someone who dwells in wanky, made up brand terms won't be - unless the agency in question wants to bullshit its clients on an epic scale.

Friday, 10 April 2009

The Great Escape

"Timmy knew that if he went back to the office he'd have to do another tossing contact report"

This is by no means disrespectful to any posts on account management or account handlers. Simply observational that’s all.

I was at the APG Junior Planner thing last night and enjoyed meeting some very sound people. What has recently struck me is the amount of account handlers wishing to make the move into planning. Not just from some I met last night but overall. All the friends I have who started in advertising when I did have made the move into planning. I’ve been asked to mentor two young account handlers into making the move where I work. Would it be correct to assume that the wish to get into planning and out of account handling is more acute now than ever before? Well, actually I’m a co founder of this blog so I’ll just assume it is. It is. So now that we’ve established that it is, why is account management driving bright young things in droves into planning? Should planning be easy to jump into or should it be a long and arduous? I’m thinking the latter but then if you’re right for planning it wont feel arduous.
I dunno, I was an utter shit account handler and can clearly be outranked by people who are good at both but still the need, want and wish for people to leave account management doesn’t so much perplex me but worries. It worries me that account management isn’t fulfilling the vast majority of young entrants into the industry based on the fact that it's a pretty crucial function to an agency.
I’m not talking about account handlers who have 3 to 4+ years in as they’ll be senior enough to enjoy the better side of account management. I’m talking about those who are just going in or are around the 2 year mark. From what I’m seeing they’re seriously unsatisfied (I’m generalising here so forgive the broad strokes) and reminds me of a lecture I saw at the second Battle of The Big Thinking where someone was talking about the new and latest generation, are we on Z? Anyway, they were saying that this is the most creative generation, the most demanding, they want the travelling, the sabbatical, the responsibility, the hedonistic weekends etc. Essentially the latest gen of workers are more creative, more dynamic and more demanding.

Now, put that up against the role of a young grad account handler at the usual large, massive global networked, clumsy shit agency and you have a fit much like a hay bail being inserted into a rabbit’s arse….when constipated. Thus we either lose to the finance or management consultancy world or we get people who are happy with contact reports, timing plans, cost estimates and whatever ever else their tormentors puke onto their to-do list……or you get a lot of people looking for in roads into what they took a job in advertising originally for….advertising.

Therefore, it seems like it’s time for account management at certain agencies (my massive caveat) to either buck up its ideas or at least be honest with itself….that or stop breaking the career hearts of hundreds of bright young people every year. This has become more of a rant than a post hasn’t it. Maybe it should take the track of being more about advice on how to get out of dodge and into planning. I guess then my advice would be to raise your hand ASAP to make the move. If you don’t, then sure as your jobs worth account manager will tell you about a spelling mistake in your last email, someone else will and then time will be devoted to sustaining their move and not yours. It’s also quite a risk for a head of planning to sign that kind of thing off. So the more you can get in front of them and ensure that it would be a great move the better. I therefore think that getting that dialogue going and your heart felt passion for planning across is crucial. If you’re asked to ‘task’ prove your abilities i.e. brief writing etc then fair enough but turning the head of the person making your move possible should be your priority. That also means that for the majority making the move has to happen internally as opposed to making it by switching agencies, Especially now when hiring is more cautious than ever.

I think this has probably gone on long enough so will end by being seriously wimpy and stating that account management when great is awesome….however when it’s not great, like some of my experiences, then it’s as painful as your eye ball becoming best mates with a bee sting

Friday, 3 April 2009

Of Course You Want To Be A Suit...

Someday you'll be fitted for one of via djpepperminta. Usual rules apply.

This is a cheeky guest post from the gentleman account handler, Mr Adland Suit. I have been remiss at posting this, but thought that a Friday evening was the right time to ruminate on the mysteries of suitdom, and why it is an excellent job.

Of course, I was a rubbish, rubbish suit, but i've met a few good 'uns in my time - so it's best you hear it from the source. Without further ado, here we are...

There were a number of titles that I could have chosen for this post: "Why I Love Being A Suit", for example; "Maybe It's Because I'm A Suit..." crossed my mind; or, of course "Why Being A Suit Kicks Ass" (apparently a fair few people have started reading this in the States, which I for some reason find extremely exciting). But, as the intention is that this will be reposted over with those delightful young whippersnappers at AdGrads, I thought it better to make at least the headline fit with their target. Because, unlike the (seemingly) popular and (certainly) controversial 'Everything Is Your Fault' strand, which is, ostensibly at least, advice for Junior Suits (although contributions from everyone continue to be welcomed and encouraged), this is very much a post for all of us - for all Suits.

Because dammit, I love my job. I've mentioned this before, both in this blog and on others, but let me state it officially, and for the record now: Advertising us one hell of an industry to work in, and I firmly believe that a Suit's life is the life you want to be living within it. And that's not meant to be disrespectful in any way, oh no - every role is important in the smooth running of an Agency or Industry, and only an embittered creative* would ever suggest otherwise. But I wouldn't want to sit anywhere else on the Great Organogram Of Life. And here's just a couple of reasons why.

1. First off, and apologies if this seems a touch familiar, but everything is our fault - and that's a bloody marvellous thing. A good Suit thrives on that responsibility and the control that comes with it. It brings variety, it brings pressure and it brings excitement.

2. We get to do everything. Creatives might get to write the scripts, but they'll never get to write a brief. Planners might get to moderate groups, but they'll never get to go on a shoot (and good lord, does that bug them...). TV Producers might get to spend hours watching Directors' reels and calling it work, but they'll never (and this might hurt) run an Agency. You, dear Suit, can do all of these things - all of these things and more.

3. Lunch. Again, I may have mentioned this elsewhere, but nobody Lunches like a Suit, much as TV producers will claim otherwise.

4. When a piece of work is made, you will be able to see your fingerprints all over it: you'll remember the awkward conversations you had with the client about the product; the invigorating, enlightening and infuriating conversations with your planner about the brief; the buzz when the team was briefed; the shiver when your phone rang and it was a copy-writer who wanted to bounce a thought off you; the rock in the pit of your stomach when you first presnted the idea to that selfsame awkward client and the stand-up row you had 20 minutes later; the sunburn you got on your feet while shooting in Barcelona and the light you broke playing football in an underground carpark the same day; drawing that final line through the final frame on the shooting board; viewing an edit for the first time; you'll be the one that stands there at the front of the room and presses play when the Client seesthe fruits of their investment for the first time; and you'll be in the room when somebody walks in with a powerpoint presentation that will tell you whether you've failed or succeeded. Every element of it will be in some way yours, and that's a wonderful thing. Not to mention how proud your mum will be.

5. Everything counts as work when you're a Suit. Creatives can lap up the culture, Planners can lap up the data, Art-Buyers can lap up the galleries and TV Producers can devour the reels, but a Suit can and should be doing all of the above and more. Read anything you can get your hands on, you're working. Spend a whole day in the cinema, you're working. Read 'Eating The Big Fish', 'Ogilvy On Advertising', 'Herd' or anything else you might find in the 'Marketing' section of Waterstone's, you're working. Spend 6 months wandering round South America, you're working. Get off your face at the Camden Roundhouse, you're working. Spend 6 hours at lunch at Corrigan's, well, you probably are actually working. Knowing about everything that's going on is part of what we do, and the best way to know about what's going on is to have done it. (And then to try and expense it.)

6. Expenses. TV Producers think they know how to play a job number - to a good Suit, watching a TV Producer with a job number is like watching a chimpanzee trying to play a bassoon. There's artistry to an expenses claim, and we've got all the paints.

7. Finally, to finish with (it's getting late), a serious point. A Suit in advertising gets as good a business education as you could buy, and he or she gets paid to do it. You get involved in the intricacies of production, you get involved in contract and fee negotiations, you get to do resource planning, you'll be one of a maximum of five people in your Agency who actually knows what 'P&L', 'bottom line' and 'margins' actually are. Later on in your career, that will either come in extraordinarily useful when you're the CEO or MD of your own Agency, or when you've taken everything you've learnt and are applying it elsewhere. Nothing says 'transferable skills' like Advertising Suit.

So that's that from me - 7 random, top of my head reasons (and there are hundreds more) why this is the best job in the world, and why it's the job that if you aren't already doing, you should be dreaming of. Or if not dreaming of, then at least quite looking forward to. Hell, it's still a job.

So - what do you lot think? Why is being a Suit the best job in the world for you? Of course, it's just possible that you don't agree with me - why the hell not? Come along - that's what the comments are there for.

*The link is, of course, an affectionate joke - without that creative, I wouldn't be here.