Archive for August, 2008
I seem to have spent a large chunk of this week charging round the office hunting down missing books, scalpels, calculators etc. Which has reminded me of the Allan Ahlberg poem ‘Scissors’, which I’ve adapted here for agency use:
Scalpels don’t lose themselves,
Melt away, or explode.
Scalpels have not got
Legs of their own
To go running off up the road.
We really need those scalpels,
That’s what makes me mad.
If it was a couple of pairs
Of Creatives we’d lost,
It wouldn’t be so bad.
I don’t want to hear excuses.
Don’t anyone speak.
Just ransack this agency
Till we find them,
Or we’ll stop here… all week!
This was the quagmire like conditions yesterday at Kilnsey Show. The announcer guy said over the loudspeaker something to the effect of “this may look like Glastonbury, but we won’t be having any of those thumping rock bands this afternoon. We do however have a display of Vintage Tractors later on…”
The showground was so saturated that they scrapped the closer-you-park-the-more-you-pay car parks and simply divided everyone up into Normal Cars and Four Wheel Drive, sending the 4x4s into the kind of marsh land that the manufacturers might have planned for but the owners probably never envisaged actually having to navigate.
One of the most popular searches that brings people to this blog is ‘welcome back to work gift’. Its my posts about my agency’s Happy New Year, Welcome Back After The Christmas Break gift giving that gets the hits, but it does seem to be a broader issue.
Over the years, I’ve come back to work twice after longish breaks for illness, so I think I’ve got a fair idea of what an agency type would ideally want on his/her return to the office (particularly from illness) – and its not necessarily an actual gift (although this desk turned Scalextric track is pretty cool):
1) Flexible working hours for the first few weeks – doing as much or little as they feel able until energy levels return – think about how hard it is to get through the first few days after the Christmas break and multiply it by ten to get an idea of the challenge energy-wise
2) No client meetings for at least the first week and no client meetings at the other end of the country for several weeks (see point 1)
3) Desk as he/she left it – not covered in mounds of competitor products, old creative boards or (worse) a freelancer who didn’t know they were coming back
4) First day coffee catch up with immediate boss and/or close team member on who has left/joined/had a baby and which clients have grown/shrunk/left/joined. Also a quick overview of what’s going on in New Business and how the agency is doing generally.
5) Time allocated in the first few days to wade through the email inbox (a great way to get an overview of what’s been going on) and catch up with colleagues
6) A workload that combines short, easily completable tasks with longer term projects that don’t have immediate urgent deadlines attached
Most of these points would apply to any business, not just agencies and I’ve been lucky enough to have the majority of the wish list above implemented both times that I returned to the office. Would you add anything else to the list?
Email today from Mr Big Shot Client asking to move some of his groups from viewing to in-home as he would like to actually sit in on them.
I can only assume that he’s never spent three hours crammed into a corner of a suburban living room, precariously perched on an ancient velvet pouffe while trying to balance a cold cup of tea on one knee before…
Katie Price (aka Jordan) is about to launch her own ‘KP Equestrian’ range of riding gear. It would be fair to say that this has divided the horsey world into two camps:
2) pink and sparkly things!!!!
For any woman whose riding wardrobe (and that of their horse too) is based around a pink-and-girly theme (and trust me, there are quite a lot of them out there) this is great news. I tend to fall into the anti-pink camp as my colour scheme is black and white, which given my big, black horse does occasionally result in my being mistaken for a mounted policewoman, but that’s surely better that than channelling Barbie Goes Riding.
However that’s not the real reason everyone is huffing and puffing – Ms Price is apparently going to do a Dressage to Music demonstration at this year’s Horse of the Year Show. She has a very talented horse, but its widely acknowledged that she’s not that experienced a rider. Despite what the tabloids might tell you, I’m about as likely as she is to make the 2012 Olympic dressage team.
The cause of all this t’interweb grumbling seems to be that just because she has a new brand to promote its OK for a sub-standard rider to be allowed to perform at this very high profile event. Its like putting Hermione-off-Harry-Potter’s A-Level Art coursework in the D&AD annual.
So its going to be very interesting to see how this new range does in terms of shifting product. I’m sure Jordan/Katie will get lots of publicity for her new brand (and the book/underwear/perfume/reality TV juggernaut that is her career) out of it, but I’m not sure how many women want to ride around living the brand in glorious velour neon pink.
However one post on a horsey forum did suggest that perhaps she’ll solve the eternal problem of finding a really supportive bra to ride in…
In breaking news, I spotted a Creative type at work tapping away at laptop that was not made by Apple. And it was running Windows. I suspect it was the tasteful shade of orangey pink that swung it.
Watching the videos from JWT’s ‘Planning Begins at 40’ event, I was particularly struck by Jon Steel’s speech – and crucially his delivery – which made it clear that he fears that Planning has lost its place, is suffering from an erosion of rigour and unless we spend all our time ‘wading through Nielsen reports and talking to beer drinkers in Leeds’ (his words, not mine), we have missed the mark.
I’m all for Planning ‘to help clients once more to set the right objectives…not just for communications, but for brands and for businesses’ as he puts it, but I think there’s also a role for us at a more basic day to day level in helping to clarify, consolidate and communicate great ideas and great work in a way which our clients are comfortable with and with which they can present onwards and upwards. Our ability to summarise and simplify campaign thinking (sometimes into just one chart) adds instant value. It might a be a quick fix and is not exactly top level strategic advice, but no-one in an agency has a more appropriate skill set and overview to do it than the Planner(s).
Just like there are lots of different kinds of Creatives and lots of different ways in which they contribute to building brands (the POS specialist vs. the ‘we only work on TV’ teams, juniors vs. heavyweights, in agencies large and small), I believe that there are roles for all kinds of Planners and within their very varied roles there is the opportunity to contribute to both the most fundamental top level strategic decisions and to add real value to day to day work by virtue of having both an overview of the client/market/consumer and crucially, thinking time. Maybe the second way is what John Grant would call ‘Fast Strategy’, but with X number of clients and Y number of Planners in an agency, the sums do sometimes add up.
Jon Steel also seemed to be very dismissive of the interest among blogging Planner’s in being ‘Interesting’, which I think is one of the most valuable things a Planner can offer as part of their toolkit. He’s written some brilliant books and his track record in Planning speaks for itself, but on this occasion I have to politely disagree with at least some of what he said.
I’ve been wondering – when was the last time anyone launched a new tobacco brand? Since the government got all hardcore on marketing fags, (from the point of view of a non smoker) it looks like its become very difficult for to do any kind of brand based activity in this sector.
So if the alcohol industry is forced down the same road, unless brand owners also happen to have a controlling stake in a huge chunk of the on premise and/or are in the grocery multiples’ good books, they’re going to find it challenging when it comes to getting NPD flying off the shelves or back bar.
Carling already seems to be pre-empting this with their ‘Belong’ campaign which never actually names the brand. But to do this you already need a brand with lots of equity behind it.
The only good news is that in the on premise its all going to become about decision making at the point of purchase – one of my specialist subjects :-)
First day back in the office after Sofa Watch 2008 and I’ve been busy catching up with everyone and everything. Perhaps its just a relief after doing not-a-lot, but my ‘To Do’ list is looking really exciting and includes a new direction for a travel company, customer segmentation in mail order and two very different drinks industry research projects. One of which may possibly involve drinking a lot of cocktails…
Its reminded me just how a) diverse, b) interesting and c) fun this Planning lark can be. In fact, today has been like all the nice, optimistic bits of starting a new job, without having to learn everyone’s name or find out where the stationery cupboard is.
I’m due back at work this week, so to ease me back in I’ve been wading through my emails from home.
There were about twelve emails that I actually needed to read and digest – the remaining 878 consisted of:
- Junk 10%
- The sandwich man / coffee man / courier is here announcements: 7%
- Please move your car because you’re blocking me in: 5%
- Rants from the Traffic/Admin/IT departments: 5%
- Birthdays, babies, joiners and leavers: 4%
- Frivolous banter: 20%
- General new business stuff: 7%
- Lost, Found and For Sale: 6%
- Other: 36%
Is this average for an agency inbox?