Archive for April, 2009
Two interesting pieces in today’s Sunday Times:
The power of positive explores the rise of the Alpha Positive woman (Michelle Obama et al) who act as positive role models and inspire others, vsersus the terrifying Alpha Negatives (who seem to be epitomized by high profile magazine editors).
The rise of the Aldirati provides an up to date report on the upsurge in ABC1s shopping at Aldi (which is hardly new news), but also looks at Strategic Shopping and the status that can be achieved by seeming intelligently thrifty, but still managing to maintain the same style of living.
Heather’s annual Planner Survey 2009 is up and running.
Page one of Heather’s 2007 survey looked like this:
My sister is getting married this Summer. It has somehow turned into a large scale, theatrical three day event that is giving me an eye twitch even though it is still eight weeks away.
As Chief Bridesmaid I’ve been saddled with all kind of tasks that are stretching my skills and sanity to the limit. I’ve established the traditional line up at top table for the reception, sorted transport, booked beauty appointments, schlepped up to Penrith for dress fittings and themed the hen night (Dirty Dancing including a dance class) but I think I should get most credit for finding these very cute lego and smurf wedding cake toppers:
I’ve also got playmobil and mini rubber ducky bride and grooms on the way (she’s having FIVE cakes) but has anyone got a good idea for the fifth cake?
Update: – the finished cakes! (thanks to Anne Kingston for the pics):
I am now officially addicted to the Marvellous Tea Dance Company’s Guinness Cake…
One thing that has annoyed me about every single agency I’ve worked for is that the office has looked like a cross between a teenager’s bedroom and an explosion in a paper factory.
No matter how smart or scruffy the actual building and furnishings were, it was still a bombsite. I’ve been to lots of my colleague’s homes and they don’t exactly live in pigsties, so why do so many agency types take no pride in their workplace?
We probably spend more of our waking hours in the office than in our own homes in an average week and yet many of us chose to squat in squalor 9-5. It’s just depressing – and it doesn’t say much to clients about how much pride we take in our work. Perhaps it’s supposed to be a sign of the crazy, funky, innovative, creative environment, or maybe it’s that no-one can be arsed to tidy up.
I think the rot must have set in around the time that desktop computers and photocopiers arrived. It was suddenly easy to generate huge quantities of paper and at the same time dispensed with the need for so many secretaries, who practically had ‘tidy and organised’ in their job descriptions.
Add to that the move to open plan offices with minimal storage facilities and I suppose being buried under three year old research reports and foam boards of pitches lost long ago was inevitable.
My current agency is very keen on moving desks a lot as departments expand and contract, which should have kept the mess down as everyone was forced to have a clearout each time they moved. In reality, it just created the Cupboards That Time Forgot, full of important looking stuff that no-one will claim responsibility for.
I know there is a school of thought that messy = busy = good. In these sober times, perhaps it really is all about appearances.
In pursuit of Insight, I’ve tried an awful lot of ways of trawling through desk research.
I’ve enjoyed access to experienced desk researchers who come back with 100 pages on everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-air-fresheners and work experience students who think Lexis Nexis is a kind of car. I’ve also done my fair share of my own desk research and produced reports for other people too.
On balance, the most interesting Insights that I’ve ever identified (without the benefit of primary research) have been when I’ve done the digging myself.
Although it is immensely time consuming, no report, however well written or thoroughly researched, can replace the dawning realisation that three or four of the things you read this morning have something interesting in common that you hadn’t considered before.
In the frantic world of agency life it’s very tempting to offload desk research onto a specialist or the nearest junior, but I’m definitely going to make a conscious effort to do more of my own groundwork.
If you want to grow great insights, maybe you have to do the digging yourself.
It has been clear over the last six months that intelligent, eminently employable graduates wanting to enter the communications industry are really struggling to find jobs. I know of several really bright 2008 graduates who are still plugging away at part time jobs while trying to find a way into our industry. It is not for lack of trying, but since the economy started its downward spiral, companies in almost every industry have understandably cut back on graduate recruitment.
What worries me is that if things continue the way they are, 2009’s graduates will find themselves in exactly the same position. This is totally understandable from an economic viewpoint, but if we continue to neglect to bring in sufficient new blood to the communications industry for several years, we could be creating major problems further down the line.
Where are the middleweight creative teams and account managers of 2014 going to come from? We do seem to be in danger of generating a massive skills gap.
You could argue that a slowing economy generates less opportunity for advancement and promotion, meaning that the skills gap will be narrowed by staff ascending the careers ladder more slowly than they might have done in a buoyant economy, but this isn’t a sufficient solution. Planning to fast-track the graduates of 2011 into more senior roles isn’t really going to solve the problem either.
The current batch of graduates themselves are also at a bit of an impasse. It’s not as if they can get the experience they need by working for next to nothing on placement or internship. If any agency is making redundancies, it’s very difficult for them to simultaneously bring in a bunch of new faces, however cheap or temporary they might be. Even if you can manage the internal politics of that conundrum, a reduced agency headcount means less people available to supervise placement and intern types.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I know that the industry is going to have to somehow ramp up investment in young talent – or we will have a major skills crisis on our hands just as the economy (hopefully) picks up.
With the economy making everyone increasingly risk averse, it seems to me that Jon Steel’s adage about clients using research not as a navigational tool but to protect themselves and their career from a fiery end is becoming increasingly apt.
With limited research budgets and risk averse clients it can be very tempting to use research to prove that there is nothing wrong with the campaign/ positioning/ strategy/ creative, rather than using it to discover what the right, unique, differentiating solution might be.
If research gives respondents a choice of A, B or C (and if significant time and money has been invested in bringing these solutions to this point), it is very tempting to go with the most popular of the three, or some combination, i.e. the one that has nothing wrong with it. At this stage it is getting a bit late to start again from scratch just because the right answer D has been identified and in any case the kind of research techniques that separate routes A, B and C apart will not necessarily identify option D at all.
A campaign scrambled together from gut feel, an out of date U&A study and a few Mintel reports and then declared by research to have nothing wrong with it has a chance of success. But the right one developed from real first hand insight with the real target audience has the potential to be far more effective.
To deliver this we’re talking about the (in some client’s eyes) soft and fluffy end of research. The ethnographic kind that often doesn’t have set objectives and deliverables and other tick boxes that budget holders can happily sign off. Which is just the kind of research that gets very hard to justify when times are tight.
The majority of clients who embrace research will always want to hold on to the rubber stamping go-with-this-one end of the research process and will be reluctant to release that budget to a more exploratory phase in search of a holy grail of ‘the right answer’. And in the current climate expecting extra research budget to enable both rubber stamping and a real exploration of the lives, hopes and fears of the target audience is unlikely.
In our search for the Golden Nugget of Insight, should we be encouraging our clients on investing a lot of money on finding the right solution, or more modest sums on identifying which solution isn’t wrong?
Hello, I’m back online and I’ve been wading through the 500 odd posts that built up on bloglines over the last couple of weeks.
Highlights for me included:
- out-takes from compare the meerkat’s Aleksandr
- Roo Reynolds accidentally reporting from the G20 protests
- a very lovely tilt shift film found via the boys and girls at LOVE
If (like most of the visitors to the blog while I was off) you’re looking for ideas for your company’s decorate-an-egg competition, my last-minute entry from 2007 is here, or you could try making a Christina Egguilera which got me the runner’s up place last year…