Sunday, October 26, 2014

Some Philosophical Bullshit For You

I studied Philosophy at university. Well, in theory I did. Like many students I was more interested in going to discos and eating kebabs, so I only really got around to seriously looking at Philosophy in my last term, which was probably a little late.

Nevertheless, occasionally I observe something in advertising that dredges up a Philosophical memory.

Last week I was wondering... are many of the disagreements that we have with Clients, and among ourselves within an Agency, real disagreements, or are they just disagreements about language?

The splendid fellow with the pipe you see above is Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), one of the founders of the Analytic School of philosophy, who believed that most philosophical problems aren't really moral disagreements or religious disputes or whatever, just disagreements about language.

He argued that if we could just be super-clear in our use of language, the problems would go away.

I reckon that's a cool tip we should try to adopt in advertising. I mean, so many problems arise because you show someone some ideas, but what they wanted was what you call strategies (although they call them ideas). Or you ask someone for ways-in, and they come back with scripts, which is what ways-in means to them, although you meant something else.

So, can we not just agree upfront what we all mean by terms like 'idea', 'strategy', 'thought', 'execution', 'territory', 'way in', and 'platform'? 

Then we'll hopefully spend less time floundering around like a fish in an empty bathtub.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Has The 'Ta-Da' Moment Had Its Day?

On another website, a Chief Marketing Officer was saying that he hates the 'ta-da' moment, when an agency does the big reveal of their new campaign.

So... why do we do it?

If we scrapped it, we would certainly save time and money. A 'big' presentation takes a day or two days of studio resource, plus the cost of the materials, which pretty much all ends up being wasted.

And it would save stress. There's always a late night or two putting that ta-da together. And the big build-up to the reveal can create big anxiety; if you haven't cracked it, it's a disaster.

I also wonder whether it's harder for clients to give honest feedback in that kind of session. The agency have clearly been to such a huge effort, and (hopefully) show such passion in presenting it, that human nature surely dictates at least a little positivity, even if none is warranted.

Yes, the passion and presenting skills of the agency can sometimes get a client excited, even over-excited. But is that necessarily a good thing? It's like when you go shopping - sometimes the pumping music and the gushing enthusiasm of the sales staff gets you buying something that you later realise doesn't suit you, and nobody wins.

So what's the alternative - emailing the work? We could theoretically give clients an email update every 24 hours.And the advantage of this method is that we wouldn't go for any longer than 24 hours on the wrong track.

But it seems a bit of a shame.

As a CD, I'm a buyer of ideas myself, and I know from experience I'm much more likely to respond positively to something if the team is there to bring it to life in front of me, rather than just sending it via email. Also an idea is much more likely to grow and evolve, in a face-to-face session.

So call me crazy, but how about if we deployed some technology to help? Like a Google Hangout?

I'm proposing what I modestly suggest we henceforward call the 'Veksner Triple-Screen Method'. You divide the screen into 3. On the left, the brief. On the right, the work. And in the middle, the face(s) of the people you are talking to. 

What do you think?

Or are you a fan of 'ta-da'? 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Don't Care About Grammar? Stop Reading.

There is a Facebook group called 'If You Don't Know The Difference Between You're And Your, You Deserve To Die.'

Quite amusing. Although personally, I don't get too wound up about grammar. It's far more important to be saying something interesting than to be saying something correctly.

In fact, I don't believe there even is such a thing as correct and incorrect usage. Not really.

However, I'm making an exception for the new trend towards using initial caps for every word in advertising headlines. This has to stop. 

Immediately, please.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The Trick That Guarantees You Will Get Your Ad Bought

Simply mention the product name repeatedly, throughout the ad.

Like this.

The good news is that the Client will probably really like it.

And it will sail through research.

The bad news is that it will almost certainly be a terrible ad.

Here's another example, the (in)famous Go Compare campaign.

But what if it's a print ad, I hear you ask?

Simple, just make the ad out of the logo.

It's a shame I couldn't find my all-time least-favourite example, a poster from the UK for budget hotel chain Premier Inn, which showed a little girl snuggled up in bed, cuddling their logo.

She really loved that logo.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Does Collaboration Actually Just Screw Things Up?

A depiction of the supposedly evil activity known as baton-passing

We work in a highly collaborative industry. And collaboration is universally held to be a good thing.

In fact the very worst thing you can say about an agency is that they work 'in silos'.

But hey, long-term readers will know that I get a kick out of questioning received wisdom. 
So - just as a thought experiment - let's ponder for a moment, what would our industry be like without any collaboration? 

I guess it would take the form of 'baton-passing', which means that one person hands their portion of a job over to the next person in the chain, with no time spent working on it together.

Currently, baton-passing is thought to be pure evil, akin to harming children or animals. And all we ever hear around collaboration is unequivocally positive. It is said to lead to more and better ideas, as different disciplines spark off each other. And it is said to lead to ideas that are 'more right', as each discipline reins in the excesses of the others.

But is collaboration really the dog's nuts?

The main argument against collaboration is cost. An example - a particular agency where I once worked was radically collaborative. Often we would have multi-hour meetings in which ten or so of the agency's most senior staff were sat in a room together. Result: we didn't make money. The benefits of collaboration must outweigh the increased cost, otherwise it's pointless. Are you sure that's the case in your agency? Have you stopped to think how much those multi-person meetings are costing?

The other argument against collaboration is that it dilutes expertise. Example: Person A is an expert at what they do, having logged more than 10,000 hours in their field. Under the collaborative system, they are encouraged not to completely finish a piece of work, but instead to leave it, say, two-thirds finished. They then go into a meeting with Persons B, C, D and E to finish it collaboratively. But whereas Person A is a highly regarded specialist in his field... B,C,D and E are well-meaning amateurs. Would it not be better to just get A to do the job by himself, and then pass it over?

Third and final point: one of the basic principles of economics is that division of labour is more efficient. This is from Adam Smith, people - the guy on the twenty pound note.

In the first chapter of The Wealth of Nations (1776), Adam Smith explains that traditional pin makers in a home workshop could produce only a few dozen pins a day. However, when organised in a factory, with each worker performing a limited operation and then passing their part of the pin onto the next worker, they could produce thousands a day. The pins were higher quality too, as once each worker became specialised in their own part of the process, their dexterity at it improved. Their tendency to innovate rose also.

Now obviously, we're not making pins here. But do some of Adam Smith's points still stand? Would an agency work better if it fully entrusted each step of the process to the specialists, rather than (for example) having meetings where suits help create strategy, or planners critique work?

Sure, we'd lose something if we abolished collaboration. But my provocation is, would we gain more?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Would You Rather The Workspace Of A Prostitute Or A Currency Trader?

What is good design?

Good design is design that meets the user's needs.

Workspace design is no exception.

Let's hear what a prostitute, a currency trader, and an advertising creative have to say on the subject:

Hi, I'm Leila. I'm a prostitute. My job relies on being able to create a very special bond between two people. We need privacy. We need to be able to shut out the outside world, in a space where we're not observed or overheard, where we can say anything and do anything, however crazy, if it feels right. That's when the results are truly mind-blowing. Hence, my workspace really has to be a private room; open plan wouldn't meet my needs at all. So what do I get? Ah, a private room. Cool.

Hi, I'm Jim. I'm a currency trader. My job relies on constant contact with a large team. We need openness. We need to be able to see each other and talk to each other - even shout at each other - at all times. It's great when it's noisy, there's a buzz, we thrive on that energy. That's when the results are mind-blowing. Hence, my workspace really has to be open-plan; a private room wouldn't meet my needs at all. So what do I get? Ah, open plan. Cool.

Hi, I'm Matt. I'm an ad agency creative. My job relies on being able to create a very special bond between two people. We need privacy. We need to be able to shut out the outside world, in a space where we're not observed or overheard, where we can say anything and do anything, however crazy, if it feels right. That's when the results are truly mind-blowing. Hence, my workspace really has to be a private room; open plan wouldn't meet my needs at all. So what do I get? Oh, I see. Open plan. Why? Okay, I'm happy to give up the door, can I at least have some walls - they can even be glass ones - so I can have a little privacy, and put my work up? No? Fuck it. I'll just put my headphones on. Maybe pop out to a cafe later.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

New Idea: Ban Everything Except Post-It Notes

We all wang on about the importance of simplicity.

But our actions do not back up our words.

Not by a long shot.

Clients say they want 'simple, powerful, effective advertising.' But too many of them (not talking about mine, who are lovely!)  feel they will get to this by presenting the agency with 54 pages of Powerpoint charts and brand architecture diagrams.
Planners want Creatives to deliver great work that's on-brief... but there's often various possible briefs within the several pages they hand over.

And Creatives - yes, we must own up to our own failings too - write elaborate TV scripts, and lengthy descriptions of activations or interactive ideas... whose verbiage often obscures the fact they don't actually have an idea in them.

Anyway, I'm not here to complain. I'm here to suggest an answer.

We simply ban all presentation materials (Powerpoint, Keynote etc) and indeed all forms of stationery, except for the post-it note.

And I'm not talking about the rectangular ones. I reckon we go hardcore - limit ourselves to just the square ones.

If a Client wants 'simple, powerful, effective advertising' wouldn't they be better off stating their problem on a single post-it note?

If a Planner wants great work wouldn't he/she be best advised to write their proposed strategy for tackling the Client's problem on a single post-it note?

And if Creatives have come up with a great idea, shouldn't they be able to write it on, yes, you guessed, a post-it?




Pretty cool, huh? What do you say? Who's with me?