I'm off to London Town for a course next Monday and Tuesday (6th and 7th). Unfortunately it's not a Friday so no Russell Davies coffee morning, but if anyone wants to meet up after work on Monday, or breakfast -ish on Tuesday give me a shout (Carol? Scamp?).
Thanks to Famous Rob and Michael Pollit I'm doing a bit more digging before going with Sky Broadband. I'm tensing up already as I contemplate the automated phone setups and call centres. So I'll call NTL first because I read last week that they've spent millions and training staff and improving customer service. There's such an opportunity for companies who remember how to treat people on a one to one basis, especially online or on the phone. If your customers are becoming your media, better make them happy eh?
I really liked a positioning for a cable/broadband company I've seen in press a few times. It was all about going the extra mile, which is a bit generic, but expressing it as 'If you can you should' makes it brilliant for me. I thought it was Cable and Wireless. So far so good.
But when I went on the web to look at Cable and Wireless' site, the connection wasn't there. So I looked at NTL and Telewest to make sure I hadn't made a mistake. Nothing there either. And to be honest, it was hard to tell them apart anyway. Only Telewest had some art direction that was consistent accross ads and online.
The broadband market, and I'm looking at the moment, is so competitive that Sky are willing to give it away for free, but there seems little differentiation amongst the biggest players? What's up with that? One has a great positioning but I can't find it online - did I imagine it or is their marketing that disjointed?
Looks like I'll be going with Sky - I've already got the digital. No one else seems to be able to give me anything to trust at the point of purchase.
You finish work,it's one of those perfect car journeys with no hold ups, every traffic light is on your side. You're two minutes away from the swimming pool, already you're thinking about diving in and forgetting the day.
You turn the corner and it's gridlock. You sit there for another half hour and seethe silently.
I was watching Tristan and Isolde last night. An okay film about Dark Ages English tribes at war with each other instead of uniting against the ruling Irish. While I'll have to check my history books for the veracity of the plot line (isn't the real legend something to do with King Arthur of Excalibur fame?), it's a useful reminder that the best way to unite is to realise you have a common enemy.
There's not many planners in the North of England, so we need to stick together against the opinion that you need to go to London for good thinking, Not to mention the fact that it can be a bit lonely sometimes.
So I'll forget the ancient rifts between Manchester and Leeds (two cities in the North of England who don't get on, not least because of football) and point you to Graham Furlong's blog. He may reside in Manchester, but he's another planner Up North and he gives you posts like this one on simplicity.
Stu's been threatening to start a blog but I can't persuade him to make the leap. In the meantime he's decided to see if he can run 10K in 40 minutes, looks like he's been influenced by my grasping at youth swim challenge.
I was in London on Monday for that pitch (No time to catch up with any London bloggers I'm afraid). Thankfully it went fine and we're through to the final stage. We didn't do finished executions, we showed them their voice, what they should feel like. It worked a treat.
There wasn't a traditional creative team on this one, we had a planner/writer partnership from the start. If you're reading this Russell, thanks for the all that stuff on complexity and getting the people that do executuions involved at the start, it really does produce different work. Having Stu helps too.
We were showed the ideas from another agency. It was bit surprising and and I didn't know what to say when asked, "What do you think?". I managed to mumble something about the ideas being good but it didn't capture what I thought the brand was about. What are you supposed to say in these situations?
The annoying thing about writers is the way they make it look so easy, curse them. You'll need no introduction to Scamp of course, but if you can bear witnessing someone else making it look like a doddle, have a look at find One Woman Running's blog here. She hasn't won a D&AD yet but she's written a fascinating post on what got her into this mess in the first place
Andy's sent me this limited edition silk screen print. The first thing I did was show everyone in the office. Hope the art directors give him a shout soon. Word of mouth marketing? Probably. Generosity? For sure.
My second name is Hovells. It never get's pronounced right. Usually people say it to rhyme with hobbles, but sometimes I get something that sounds like go-wells. Thanks to Cafe Press, this should help.
Got a pitch on Monday (lovely weekend- not). For quite a while I've stuck to my lucky pitch clothes- all black. Should I stick to what I know or wear this? Should I spend more time worrying about something useful?
Third Northern Planning Summit tonight in Arts Cafe. After reading Russell's 'coffee and over the world' post, it's good to know we're not alone (even though we may be drinking something other than coffee). It may have been started with planners, but anyone who wants to come is welcome.
We learned a few things from our first meeting; for example Leffe isn't condusive for intelligent discussion and it's always useful to have a tent in the garden if your locked out of the house.
When we managed to get together a second time, where we met Gemma, we found that I'm useless finding venues and James B gets lost easilly, while Famous Rob wowed us with his strategy for a discount supermarket.
We've sort of got a name for these meetings now (see below), and Rob will be bringing Joel. Next time Beccy from my place will be coming too. I've got Dave at work doing us a logo and things just for fun, maybe we'll even have some tankards like my Grandad used to have at his social club.
Perhaps that’s what as should call it – ‘My Brain Hurts (Northern Chapter evening meetings)’.
Either this coming Thursday (12th) or the next one (19th) are fine with me.
From: Andrew Hovells [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: 05 October 2006 14:13 To: James Boardwell;
Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org; joel arber Subject: RE: planning for Oct
So does that make it a week on Thursday? That’s fine by me. Please say that’s what we’re doing my brain hurts.
Here's something that will be both fascinating and very, very useful. It's The Biggest Blog in History. Basically, they're getting as many people as possible to record about the day they've just had. No dizzy sparks of wonder, just the ordinary things that happen to ordinary people. The things people really do, not what we sometimes convince ourselves happens. Bet no one mentions the word brand...
I love films and I think it's important to pay to see them as often as possible, since the more you go see the films you like, the more they'll make. A downside is being forced to sit through the ads. Not because I hate watching ads (most cinema ads seem to reward the captive audience with something worth watching, while TV ads - where you can go do something else - don't, curious) but rather I start thinking about how they'll work and what I would have done - sad I know.
But when I went to see 'The Queen' last week, not only was the film great, I got to see a new ad for Ben and Jerry's Climate Change College. Not rewriting the advertising lexicon, but THE FACT THAT IT DIDN'T LOOK LIKE AN AD really got my attention. It was more a short documentary on young people going out to see the effects of climate change and passing on what they've learned. They wanted me to go to the website, which I did, and consider signing up for the next wave. Unfortunately I can't since I'm over thirty (so Mrs Hovells can relax about me doing some grasping , at youth expedition for now) but the site and the blogs kept me reading for quite a while.
I'm not sure how I feel about Ben and Jerry's doing this, but since they started doing the happy natural stuff long before some brand called Innocent came along, I'm sort of okay about it. How many brands could do this and appear sincere?
Anyway, I just liked the media approach and the way they involved me. I've talked about this to quite a few people, and not just in professional capacity. These days, any brand that can create that kind of conversation must be doing something right.
I'm not fussed for Ice cream, but looks like mine's a Phish Food......
The number of posts today may suggest otherwise, but I have loads to do, not least that pitch. My mind's gone blank and blogging is great way to think abot something else for a while. I'll get back to it refreshed and realise how badly I've started. Ah well, at least there'll be something to improve.
(by the way, I need a haircut don't I? With my hairline the longer the hair,the balder you look)
This kind of thing is what makes the new series of Extras funny for me. There are jokes about every taboo subject you can think of, from what you can say in front of the disabled to homophobia. Even though you laugh, you know you shouldn't. This is real genius of the show for me, it's actually making fun of us and the difference between what we say and what we think. Brilliant.
Speaking of things you shouldn't really laugh at, the website for the new Borat film is genius. For some it's puerile nonsense,for others achingly funny. If you're the latter, it's brimming with classic clips, an excruciatingly funny reaction to the condemnation from the Kazakh government and, best of all, the link to an even funnier MySpace page. Loads to see and do, fun for the initiated, everything the new viewer needs to know before seeing the film. I like. Sacha Baron Cohen could teach quite a few of us about integrated planning n'est pas?.
Books are not better than other media, just different. And I think there's a reason books will always have place, or at least long-form written communication. While visual media can be brilliant, and so can the quick fixes you get on the web, a problem can be missing out the nuance and complexity of longer collections of writing.
I don't just mean that reading can be more demanding and therefore more rewarding, although that's kind of true, it's that they're better for getting accross more complex detail. When you read a book, you're not forced to follow a director's pace, or make do with a quick snapshot that misses the real meat. You can stop and start when you want, you can linger over a certain point or even go back and read it again. This is great for fiction but even better for factual books and text books.
At the recommendation of Mr PH Colman I'm going to read Richard Dawkin's 'The God Delusion'. I flicked over it in Borders and I can already see it's well written, full of complex argument and ideas. I won't want to rush it, I'll want to stop and pondera particular point, or grapple with an argument, maybe reading it a couple of times before moving on. It's a bit like that when you read a textbook at school. You don't read it once, you keep coming back again and again.
With other media you lose the depth, but you also have to fit in with the pace someone else has set for you. When it comes to really learning something new, and squeezing every drop from each sentence, it's hard to think of a better medium than books, or for that matter, the meatier articles and essays in newspapers and some magazines.
I'm working on a utopian pitch a the moment. Clear point of difference, client that wants a famous brand. He loves communication that's interesting enough to get passed on. One of those projects you dream of as planner. Or is it?
It's easy to throw your opinions around on blogs and things, with wonderful theories that look great on paper. It's another to actually do it yourself. There's usually the comfort of the client 'not getting it', but what happens when you've got someone who just says 'stick your neck out and be brilliant'? What happens when there's no account person putting brakes on? We've got Kirsten; straight bat, will support you to the hilt.
Am I nervous? Of course. But being a bit afraid means you won't stop trying. I'm going to be working with Stu which is a big plus. We'll talk a lot, throw things around, fall out, argue and, in the the end enjoy every second of it. I like presenting stuff with him, he balances my faults. I tend to dance around and get over excited,while he's got this horse whisperer thing going. Cool as a cucumber.
More from Genius on Radio 4. This week's best idea was a solution to the bead conundrum. It's annoying that bread only comes in fixed thickness of slice - thin, medium or thick. Of course, you can have unsliced bread and do it yourself, but slicing bread isn't easy for people as hamfisted as me.
The solution? Perforated bread. Just tear it at the thickness you want. Brilliant.
One thing I miss about being a suit is all the free lunches, good food is my third favourite thing too- drink is second. Don't forget I'm from North, ergo tight fisted; free is good.
You can imagine then how much I'll enjoy the coming weeks of sampling some eateries on expenses. It's for a pitch, and if we win there'll be more free food. It's Wagamama tommorow, I'll savour every free bite (I hope).
Two apparently unrelated things connected for me this week.
Firstly, thanks to all the swimming training I'm doing, I occasionally find myself a bit tired and have to watch out for momentary lapses of judgement at work. It's hard doing anything anything significant outside of a full time job unless your commited and fantastically organised (I'm commited but the organisation is something I'm working on.....). This may explain the embarassing typos and less than interesting posts on this blog, or that's my excuse anyway.
Which brings me to the other thing. I work on ChildLine for free, which isn't always easy to fit around paying clients' . This is nothing next to the volunteers who give up regular evenings and weekends to man the phones and raise money. You have to admire their commitment when it can affect the energy they have for their real job, and 'me time'. Makes me wonder how much recruiting volunteers for stuff is about them getting some slack from the people they work for, and live with. Maybe it's no coincidence that the profile for charity workers is bored Mums and empty nesters.
I was reading that Lucozade is being respositioned as an alternative to the caffiene pick me up. Interesting thought (although Lucozade will always be a funny tasting drink to have when you're ill to me). Did you get that from any of those 'Energising Britain' executions? I certainly didin't, maybe my brain's tired. Time for a cup of tea I think.
This was me aged 12 on a swimming trip to Germany, proudly sporting my City of Leeds team t-shirt. It was my first trip abroad without Mum and Dad, and I was bit nervous, but a bit curious about what it would be like.
It ended up being one of those times when you feel everything is perfect and you really would not change a thing. I stayed with a lovely German family who treated me as their own, I had a purple patch of form and won a few races; and I finally got to kiss Samantha Lightfoot. I can still see the proud look on Mum and Dad's face when I got off the coach with my medals back in Leeds.
I'm 32 now and there have been a few more moments when everything seems in it's right place. Getting married was one of course, but there are others that just simply arrived.
One was in Hamburg the night before the Millennium. We picked a quiet bar to save energies for the following day, but we ended meeting some nice people and going to a party full of different nationalities and backgrounds. I can remember standing on this balcony just chatting with these people I'd never see again and just thinking how perfect it was.
Another time was just walking on the beach in Cornwall, where Mum and Dad live now, with the sun on my back.
They don't come around very often, but when these moments come, they stay with you forever.
There's an interesting post on Russell's blog with lots of advice on moving from account handling to planning. There's plenty there on how you can make it happen, but less about the things you might want to consider first. I made the move myself and found that I had to get used to some new things. There were differences in the way people behaved around me - and the way I needed to be around them.
Here's what I learned; take it with a pinch of salt since I was never going to be the best suit in the world (Jonny Hornby I'm not). It may reveal more about my shortcomings than anything useful but I hope it's helpful in some way.
1. Surrendering controland winning influence- The buck tends to stop with the account handler so you'll be used to making decisions as a divine right. Creatives will to be involved, and of course, in the end, the client decides, but planners don't officially get to decide that much. They do get to suggest and influence a lot, if what they contribute is useful and delivered in non - threatening way. You can no longer tell, only suggest - so make your suggestions very, very good.
2. No one needs you in the room - As a suit, you'll be used to attending most of the important meetings as a matter of course. Suddenly, you have to earn your right to be there. Creatives, suits and clients can get along fine without planners complicating things, you need them to want you there. Some of this will come from the quality of what you contribute, the rest is how you behave. There are lots of egos in these rooms, with creatives, suits and clients all jockeying for positioning. As soon as you make anyone feel like you're stealing their thunder, you won't be asked back. You'll remember as suit wanting to deepen your relationship with the client, but there's creatives desperately holding on to their idea too. How can you be the person that can help these people with these objectives?
3. Creatives will be wary - rare is the suit that hasn't borne the brunt of being the bringer of bad news; making the logo bigger, altering a line, the work's bombed in research etc. Personally, I think the conflict is good - both fill each other's gaps - but now you have to convince these people do something rather than telling them. Hopefully, they'll trust you anyway, after lots of projects where you've shown you care about their work and argued their case in front of the client. But they'll be a bit cynical of you now - "Used to be suit, so don't expect much". You'll have to be twice as interesting as the next planner, but there is something else that will help. You can be a non - threatening ally. How will you convince them you can get there work through, how can you get them coming to you for things that will make the work better? There's a good start here and here, and here if you need to use the dark side..... You can actually use your former life a suit as a big positive. Most of a creative's work ends up in the bin -and a fair bit of this is culled before it goes to client. The creative director is a barrier of course, but so are the account handlers. You know how suits think, and some of their dark arts. Sharing this will help the creatives trust you, and they'll owe you one.
4. So will suits - You used to be one of them, now you're not. Not only will they be doubly wary of you stealing their thunder as a former suit, they'll be very cynical about your planning powers since you're "No better than they are". You'll have to work hard to prove yourself of course, but there are some dark arts to employ too. You know how they think, you know what matters to them. You'll be loving not doing the admin they do, you'll be ecstatic that you're not piggy in the middle anymore. This means you're in a better position to help and appreciate what they do for you. You know what it's like for them so you know how to help. Here's some more pointers.
I hope the above is a useful start. Anyone got anything to add? I found the transition a challenge, but it was well worth it. It's a privilege to have a job that seems more like a hobby. By the way, I'm of the opinion that more and more planners will end up on the client side. Anyone gone through the experience? What was it like?
I'm enjoying Joe Klein's new book. In 'Politics Lost', the author of 'Primary Colours' argues that politicians need to lead with more conviction and humanity. As voters look for sincerity rather than minutia of policy, it's how you come across, not what you say. This blog and politics don't mix, but just for once.......I reject the idea this means voters are stupid, maybe it's more that they are failing to connect - except one?
Here's a great Observer article on Generation Y and Web 2.0 stuff. It describes the complexity involved in younger people wanting to be defined by what they do, not what they consume. There's also some thought provoking views on how tough the young have it in the UK- worries about pensions, can't afford to buy their first house and mountains of student debt. I especially like the thought of brands eschewing 'messaging' in place of 'hosting conversations'.