You probably know about Bono editing the Independent last week. I just can't help but feel that it's a bit of a missed opportunity.
He didn't pull any punches in his choice of articles but since he was editing a middle class, liberal newspaper, wasn't he preaching to the converted? Wouldn't it have been better to challenge readers of the Telegraph, the Mail or the Sun?
On the other hand the BBC's Radio 4 invited in people as diverse as David Blunkett and Steve Savale (from Asian Dub Foundation) to edit the Today programme. This gave you quite a challenging listen as it took you outside our your usual comfort zone.
So to summarise - challenge people with new stuff and they'll take notice. Spoon-feed them and they'll switch off.
I'm in, everywhere smells of paint. In case you're wondering, the monstrosity on the window sill was won at a ChildLine raffle (I work on some of their stuff for free, well worth the support), she's not allowed in our garden, but I'm too fond of her to consider the bin .
Finally, my top ten tips for working with account handlers. I used to be one, so I have a fair idea what goes on in their heads.
1) Never forget that they do all the things you hate. They organise meetings, do the contact report, take countless phone calls at the worst possible time and generally do a thousand things at once.Show you appreciate this, and do what you can to simplify their lives.
2) Creatives hate it when suits tell them, "We can't present that, the client will never go for it." Since it's their job to bring the client perspective into the agency they take constant abuse from creative teams. You can help mediate between them, and take some of the pressure off. How can you help save the creative idea, but make it client friendly? Sometimes it's research evidence, sometimes it's knowing that the client likes pictures of dogs.
3) They don't need you. Creatives and suits can do the job relatively well. You need to be the person they want in the room - both client meetings and creative reviews. Account people don't like losing control, so don't threaten this. Do make them feel that you can tell them something they don't know, or look at something in a different, or help them in a tricky conversation.
4) The above means that you've got to be interesting. Read a lot, keep scrapbook,collect stuff. You want them coming to you for things.
5) Suggest as often as possible, as opposed to tell. Be subtle, go in the back door. Let them make the decisions, just make your suggestions so useful they become difficult to ignore.
6) Creatives see one of your roles as getting their work through research. So do the suits. The work bombing in groups means more work for them (and grief from the client). Make sure any testing makes the work better opposed to a re-write.
7) Be quick. The client always wants things yesterday, which means they're always under pressure. Deliver things when you say you will.
8) Let them have input. A fresh pair of eyes always helps. Talk a lot, they spend more time with the client than you do, they may have picked up something you've missed. If they feel they've had a role in the strategy, they'll take a more active role in getting it through intact.
9) Unless you've done something really dumb (or someone's clicked reply instead of forward) clients usually fire agencies because they are bored, or they think you've gone a bit stale. Be constantly looking for new stuff they can give the client to challenge them and make them think. They'll know the best time to pass it on.
10) Make friends with junior account people. They have less baggage than older people and will surprise you with new stuff. They'll also be an account director before you know it. If you build a relationship before they're important, it will pay off when they are.
Since this is a blog about being a planner in the North of England, I'd thought I'd better do something about what it's like here. Leeds to be precise.
I spent two years in London and I loved it, but I ended coming back. It's not for everyone; personally I could never get used to the tube and the impersonal nature of the city. It may seem an odd thing to you, but I'm used to chatting to strangers and driving into the city centre when I please.
Leeds is wonderful city with plenty to do and see. It's got all the places to eat and drink you'll ever need, along with great theaters and art. It's teaming with activity, there's a thriving business community, along with shops like Harvey Nics and Space NK - yet there's no congestion charge and you can be in the countryside in ten minutes, which is precisely where I live.
Yorkshire has a rich personality all of it's own. The stereotype of straight talking Yorkshire people is not altogether wrong; we tend to be honest and forthright, but we're also warm and friendly. This is still the essence of Leeds people, but it's been enriched by more people coming here to work from other places. There is a rare mix of raw honesty and open mindedness that I haven't found anywhere else. Leeds has a unqiue blend of warmth with a searching energetic spirit and that's what I like about living here.
If you've got a lot of experience, perhaps you think you've got a lot to teach young people joining your industry. Be prepared for the fact that they may have things to teach you. That's the good thing about youth, it has such an unblinkered, fresh approach to stuff, without the baggage the rest of us have picked up.
Beccy joined us full time last year after an internship. She was precocious then, now she's scary. I was happy with a public sector strategy today, until she gave me a totally different point of view.
It's always worth talking through your thinking with someone else, just be gracious when you show you how wrong you've been (and think fast about how you can take the credit).
This idea seemed quite nice at first. In Australia, you can put your logo on nightclub pass out stamps. On reflection I thought it was more Urban Spam, but since there's a public smoking ban coming to the UK, maybe it could be useful way for cigarette brands to connect with young smokers. Anyway, what do I know? I'm 32 and I live in a village. The only club I've been to recently is a tennis one (and my hip went) perhaps I should stick to what I know.......
Here's and interesting thought. Grant McCracken believes that since virtual reality is beginning to allow interaction with more people, they'll feel more 'real'. Makes sense since it's the unpredictability of other people's behavior that make the 'real world' so vital, and continuously gives us new things. It's happening in games, but what about films? What could this mean for brands?
A weakness of most communications in general is that they are linear and predictable. Reality TV tends to work because it works the other way, you don't know what will happen next,although you are helping to create the story (if you vote).
Perhaps we'll be creating 'living' brand stories that evolve thanks to decisions made by real people rather than boardrooms. Just like people decide who stays in Big Brother, perhaps they'll decide the the development in next week's ad, or on online film. The trick will be to set an agenda, rather than offer a limited choice. It will mean leaving space for them to surprise us and each other.
Nike's 'Joga Bonita' stuff works like this. The ads are one thing, but the online stuff is really interesting. Instead of star players, real people can compete against each other, filming their best moves and tricks to post on the web for all to see, inspiring each other to do better. We'll see more of this.
Someone who spends all day thinking about brands shouldn't fall for marketing should he?
Yet I couldn't stop myself buying these vintage Nike Cross Trainers from Ebay. They remind me what it felt like be a rebellious junior tennis player refusing to wear white at the my local club. I totally bought into the rebellious Andre Agassi thing and nothing that Nike has done since has made me feel anything differently.
This thing about having fans instead of customers will become ever more important as more people become able to filter out more marketing with things like PVR's, not to mention using search engines and blogs to find stuff for themselves. More brands are resorting to Urban Spam, a phrase coined by Russell Davies. But instead of more int eruption,shouldn't they be creating communication people want to find and, dare I say it, pass on instead? Honda's 'Choir' ad had been downloaded over 3 million times for example.
Halzephron Farm is a fabulous concept. They sell an amazing choice of natural herbal remedies, sauces, chutneys and dips. The wonderful packaging and sheer naturalness of it go a long way to persuading you to buy something. But what makes it so special is the sheer passion of the place. They love their stuff and want to share it with as many people as possible. There are always bowls filled with a treasure trove of different tastes and some stuff to dip with. And you can stay as long as you like. Some would call this this experiential marketing, they see it as sharing. What a great point of view for a brand. You can also buy their stuff online.
It's nearly the football World Cup, which means that English people get a bigger chance to be cynical than usual. England fans are already looking for excuses for us not winning; from the manager to Wayne Rooney's foot. After seeing their base in Baden Baden, I predict lack of motivation this time. From the views to the natural spa's it's simply too relaxing for anything too hectic.
Even the 'Bad Hotel' was good and NEARLY everyone we met embarrassed us with their perfect English and good humour.
South Africans are thinking twice about buying a pirated copy of the next Pirates of the Carribean film. TBWA Hunt Lascaris has hired street corner hustlers to sell fake pirated DVDs, according to this story. You get a few seconds of Robin Williams, then all you get is: "Thank you for buying this DVD. Your R40 has been donated to the Anti Piracy Foundation. Piracy is a crime." To get over the resentment of being had, local cinemas will actually accept the fake DVD's in exchange for a cinema ticket to see the real thing.
Really smart strategy. Goes straight to the moment of truth, that point when you wait for your film to load up on the player, and encourages you to experience the alternative without losing any more hard earned cash.
I've been uploading some shots and found this. Nothing stops surfers doing what they love, even when it's this cold. When the tourists disappear in winter it means more space to surf. You see people wrapped up in winter woollies, yet surfers are still running all the way down the hill, and across the beach, as if they can't stand to miss a single wave they don't have to. Wouldn't it be amazing to find one thing you love doing tha t much
I love Edward Monkton, and not just because he creates charming books that are witty, funny and endlessly entertaining. He's also got a great understanding about the way people think and behave. A lot of what agencies do is about saying a lot simply; this snapshot demonstrates the difference between men and women better than a thousand words ever could.
Quite a few of us live in Leeds and love the fact that it's so unique. This the Leeds brand, which doesn't cut if for us. People live in Leeds and 'they love it'. Bravo.
We were chatting about how we'd go about it. I like this sort of thing, when you get to play, you learn all sorts of new stuff.
Terry Frost is an artist who moved up to Leeds from Cornwall. He captures a fresh view of life in Leeds. Now opinions on art vary, but the critics say that these modernist paintings of life in Leeds have a generosity about them, a daring impulsive quality. This is what's great about Leeds, it's a fast moving and modern city, but it still has it's generous, friendly northern heart. I quite like this interesting territory. It certainly feels true of the city, to those of us that live there. If we used this personality and imagery as a starter for the breif, what would the end result be?
We won a pitch for these guys recently. I really enjoyed it for two reasons. Firstly, there was loads of research that had just been sitting there. All it needed was someone to make the connections
It really showed what planning's for. You can have as much research data as you like but it's pretty useless if no one turns it into something interesting. It was great to see the creatives grab hold of the brief and turn it into some fantastic work.
The second thing was that I have no idea about DIY, but I can't stop wanting to play with all the tools.
On the subject of setting the agenda, here's some scary stuff about trans fats. They are artificial, they last longer than normal oil, but the body can't process it. How would consumers react if they knew how much they were imbibing, and what it does? How much would they appreciate a food related brand standing up for them? It's not a big issue in the UK, but there's some territory to be gained for the brand that makes it one.
Sales of Fairtrade products rose by 40% this year. No wonder supermarkets are replacing price with ecology as the new selling point for winning loyalty ( In yesterday's Guardian). A good example of how consumers can make even the biggest companies change if they tell them forcefully enough. Imagine the possibilties for a supermarket that had set the agenda instead of echoing the trend when it became too big too ignore.Full article here
The big chains all want to be green grocers - but it's nothing to do with that inquiry
Ecology replaces price as the selling point that aims to win shopper's loyalty
For years the supermarket's main battleground has been price: "every little helps", "everyday low prices", "value to shout about" and "Asda price" have been their cries. But in recent months they have found a new territory to tussle over: the environment.
All the big chains are engaged in a battle to prove their green credentials and portray themselves as caring, sharing protectors of the planet. Last week Tesco unveiled a 10-point plan to change the image of the monster grocer into that of a "good neighbour". Items ranged from sponsoring mass running and walking events to erecting wind turbines on store roofs.
One day last week the motorways were impassable, so I took the train. It went through loads of places I've never been to and probably never will, just like most marketing teams and boardmembers. It reminded me that a planner's job isn't just to make brands relevant to people, it's also about bringing the opinions and lives of real people into boardrooms.
I got talking to one of our creatives about this. He told me about a new homes client that was convinced people loved his houses. They got him to watch consumers rip his enthusiasm to pieces in a focus group and he transformed his business.
On the other hand sometimes it's simple. My gym is next to a nightclub called 'Evolution' (three for two for Turboshandies on a Wendesday - you get the picture). I saw this poster outside. Why complicate things further?
There's no getting away from having to do the factory tour. Insights into your audience are important, but obsessing about them can make brands forget to talk about themselves.
Getting to meet the people who work there is a great antidote to this and can teach you something fresh and interesting that the people in marketing may not appreciate. The information is nearly always there, it just needs to be found.
Big Shiny Thing has a post about Google Trends. After a quick look, Mumbai beats New York and London for searches on Account Planning. Also, in most UK cities far more people are searching for Arctic Monkeys than Mcfly.
Grant McCracken has put up a thought provoking post about BMW. They seem to be positioning themselves as an 'enemy of the enemies of ideas'. Interesting since, in the UK at least, BMW drivers tend to be seen as conservative and rather dull. I wonder, has the new ideas culture led to them to look for a new audience? Has it simply forced them to make their current drivers re-classify themselves? What do you think?
Saw this ad in the Observer. I thought it was good visual idea, dramatising the line 'avoid getting old ahead of time'.
The problem was, I was damned if I knew what they actually do. They probably wanted to intrigue me enough to go to the website. They did, but then I had to play an irrelevant game. It took another three clicks to find out they sold childcare products. It's no good engaging with your audience if they don't know who you are and you don't tell them why you should care.
Sorry for the lack of entries recently. It's time consuming being a one man planning department.
Anyway, the newspaper society ran an interesting ad in Campaign last week. It told us that ad avoiding consumers actually look for ads in local press, nay, that's why they buy them. They want you to go onto www.thewantedads.co.uk to find out more and see the research.So far so good. When you log on, the research isn't there and you can't have it without filling out a form and agreeing to an unspecified price. To find out how much it is, you have to phone someone in London. Now hold on. They want our business, they've got our attention, and then they want us to pay for the follow through? They may understand press, but they sure don't get how it fits in with the other stuff.