There isn't one of course, it depends on your mood, your preferences etc, but for me, last night seemed as if was at the time.
I got home at 6.45pm, which is pretty good for me and dived in to play with my 6 month old boy who can't stop smiling and generally wants to play all the time.
So while Mrs Northern got ready, we did the usual demented pantomime that consists of silly dancing, a bit of talking, bad singing, tickling , throwing around and general buffoonery that makes us both laugh like loons.
That's the amazing bit that's happening now, he's not just the helpless little thing that just wants looking after, we have a relationship, we're friends. And we really like being around each other.
Nothing makes me happier than coming in at the end of the day and him giving a little yelp of joy.
By 8pm he was getting tired, so it was time to give him his last feed an haul into his sleeping bag. This is always Will and Daddy time. We get settles on the sofa and cuddle while he slowly drifts off.
It was a little different this time, he stayed awake for another hour. So while watched a bit of telly, we kept staring and smiling at each other. He kept on putting his hands out, wanting to explore my face, he seems to like feeling th texture of stubble (he seems to get very excited exploring my bald head). I can't tell you how happy I felt, just smiling at my little boy and him smiling back. His eyes seemed to be saying, "I liked the rough and tumble, but I love just being together like this too". I quietly talked to him, nothing special, just thoughts and stuff and eventually he dropped off.
Finally, it was time for a bit of late night cooking and eating alone. I had no idea what to have, hadn't thought about, but making it up as you go along is sometimes half the fun.
It was, roughly, spaghetti with roasted tomato and chicken.
What you need to do is:
Roast a punnet of ripe tomatoes until they're squishy and a little black around th edges. Glug some olive oil on them before they go in the oven- set it at about 180 degrees c.
What you like for 10 minutes, then put a handful of spaghetti in a pan of boiling water. I also put in a handful of dried sun dried tomatoes.Not only does this rehydrate them quickly, the juices that come out flavour the spaghetti.
Leave it to boil for 12 minutes.
When the tomatoes are done, pour in a glug of white wine, put it back in the oven,
Drain the pasta and sun dried tomatoes, throw them it back in the pan with a handful of chopped, roast chicken, a teaspoon of basil and a teaspoon of dried chillies.
Tip in the roast tomato mixture, along with a handful of rocket and toss it all together. Eat straight away.
It's absolutely magic, really juicy, and the sweetness of the tomato contrasts with the bitter rocket and basil, the kick from the chilli and the dry wine. It tastes of summer.
That was one version of a perfect evening. There are others of course.
As part of the process of moving here, I did a small talk on why a digitally flavoured agency needs planning.
How, for a more vociferous point of view, look at this. What I said was based around two slides.
While this is what I think of idiots who believe in intelligent design, I was making another point about Darwinism.
Advertising agencies got found out around 15 years ago, when clients began to look at what they were getting in return for fees that paid for Porche's, lunches at the Ivy and, even Up North, a very plush life for agency types. We've been seeing the slow decline of ad agencies ever since, amplified by the claimed decline in effectiveness of paid for, traditional above the line. If you're any good, you do okay, if you're not, you're fishfood.
A similar thing is happening with digital agencies. For a few years they had the upper hand over clients and other agencies thanks to being the only ones that 'get' the technology. A few whizzy websites, a bit of SEO and a few banner ads and yay, make lots of money!
But now they're getting found out. Clients are looking at very pretty, but very useless pieces of digital art and questioning what the return is, and unfortunately for digital, that's very easy to measure.
You wouldn't believe the amount of digital specialists I've worked with that have no clue about building ideas around people, who just want to update the website. When more people don't even bother with brand websites, they just noodle around they're own social hubs, this 'act' is wearing a little thin.
Technology is still massively important, things are moving quicker and quicker. But knowing how things work and what is possible is useless without knowing what it's for.
Then there's display advertising. Hand on heart, can you remember an ad on the web that made you sit up and really take notice? I can't, but I can still remember how I felt watching the first 'Just Do It' ads, or 'Balls'.
Just because the medium might have changed - and boy how things have changed, it doesn't mean the skills have. It's bloody complex now. Digital? I give you post digital, the Internet of Things, Transmedia Planning....multiple touchpoints, people, surprise surprise, doing what they want, not what you tell them and shutting out brands, and culture in general that doesn't earn their attention. e - interacting with brands across a series of touchpoints rather than one web portal.
That brought me to the second slide, thieved from Gaping Void.
Digital stuff hasn't changed people, it's simply enabled them to be more human. One way, authoritarian media and culture managed to pretend otherwise for a while, but humans are social creatures and can't help responding to others around them, wanting to belong to a group and acting social. Social networking isn't new, it's just magnified how people really behave.
In other words, it's not enough to know the technology, you have to know people. You have to build ideas around how real people behave, be relevant, interesting, know when to show up, how to fit into their lives.
And that sounds familiar doesn't it? That's what people that grew up doing brand stuff and advertising learned to do as second nature (the good ones).
Thats' what planners do - as far as I'm concerned, there's no such thing as a digital planner, I'd wager there won't be as many digital agencies soon, maybe on or two specialists that are especially good, but there will be agencies that don't do advertising, they don't do 'digital' or, they just have ideas that connect people with brands in the right way - the brand, but also for the people.
That's going to need planners more than ever before. So the idea of 'digital' is a little silly as far as the future is concerned. Ad agencies are going to become good at doing stuff that isn't just advertising, the good ones already are. So called digital agencies will have to get good at proper strategy and creativity.
There are pioneers of course. Balloonacy is great, wonderful use of technology, what you need people to do and built around a brand idea.
This TV commercial was designed to let people in and share and discuss online.
This idea for Oasis is based on classic planning - increase frequency by persuading young people to have a decent lunch, of which Oasis is a critical ingredient. TV is activation, reach and engagement, but there's a campaign to join in with on Facebook.
I was in London for something or other yesterday, Shoreditch to be precise.
That meant a walk from Liverpool Street Tube, through the Square Mile to Shoreditch.
It was funny to watch how, in the space of 400 yards, I walked through a sea of pinstripe suits, shiny chrome (and disappearing taxes).
Then passing through some sort of invisible forcefield, immediately entering a world of irony, knowingly sparse and shabby streets, creative types, T4 presenters in general extras from The Mighty Boosh.
Funny how two completely opposite worlds co-exist next to each other, one the complete antithesis of the other. That amazes me about cities, the way they self organise like that. In the small of a few footsteps, everything changes.
Anyway, it doesn't matter if you work for number one's or not, these days, the best way to stay a number one is tothink like challenger. That's why I think Nike has stayed ahead all these years - they wouldn't do work like this otherwise. Compare that to big lumbering L'oreal,
or Gillette who need god knows how much quant to hit on the shallow observation that men like to be treated as individuals (they don't by the way, they just think they do). Or the clunky champions stuff..
By the way, I quite the 'best a man can get' stuff
- I remember it for starters and it was particular view on manhood that isn't really different to Old Spice
or Dove today.......
....a real man is experienced - it was just executed in a different time, before Americans got irony, or found out that Europeans did.
Anyway, that was the disappointment with the number one I did work on, they'd become complacent, lazy and believed their own hype.
So I suggest you join in (it's free) there's plenty to read and watch.
For starters, here's Naresh Ramchamdani's observation that digital, cheaper media is the same as expensive media and firepower - people know when you've made an effort to do something special and reward you with engagement (you'll have to join first which will take seconds)
Will is nearly 6 months old now. He's just about sitting up, moving off milk and attacking real food with gusto. Perversely, he's stopping sleeping right through at night after a few months of pretty good sleep.
He's also laughing, worrying, as soon as I start talking to him he starts to laugh at me (but then again, why should he be different to anyone else?). I still talk to him all the time, it's great for his future vocabulary and from my point of view, he doesn't talk back and he can't go and do something else, no matter how boring I'm being.
I've started to write to him too. Just thoughts around what I'm feeling, what I'm doing, what we're both up to. I hope he might want to read it someday, when he's old enough. It's hard for sons to see their parents as people, one day I want him to know what I was like and what life was like was me and his Mum. When he's our age, things will no doubt we wildly different. And it will do until we can talk to each other (although he seems to enjoy spouting gibberish at the moment, maybe I just need to understand Williamese).
It's amazing watching him, he's interested in EVERYTHING. I think children are have lots to teach us, he hasn't learned to be cynical yet or ironic yet - everything he cares about is either do do with playing, feeling safe and loved and not being hungry. Not a bad way to live your life really.
Don't you think grown ups forget to play sometimes? Not everything needs a point, sometimes it's nice to do something just because it's fun.
One of the difference between new work and old work is that I won't be lead agency planner all the time, which was mostly the case before. Sometimes I will, sometimes I'll be part of an inter agency team, doing mostly the digital bit.
That means two things, which, come to think of it, stand for planning full stop. It's rare that an agency and it's planners work in isolation these days - even if you're leading comms planning, you're going to have to be generous to other client agencies and work together.
That means you have to both think big and think small. Sometimes you're thinking about the whole brand and having big ideas to pull everything else along, while other times you're thinking about how to execute someone else's big idea, or co-creating it with other planners.
That means being flexible and it also means there is no such thing as totally Generalist OR Specialist. It doesn't matter what you do, you need a knowledge and appreciation of how everything works.
One of the accusations I'd level at most digital specialists is that they don't know enough about how brands work, what the brand their working on is about or what their audience is interested in, or does.
On the other hand, too many traditional, lead planners have great ideas for advertising, but fail to consider how it would work elsewhere.
How you go about all this depends on how you thinks brands work, and the brand you work on- build brands built from lots of little ideas that pull in a general direction, or you can search for the big idea. Either way, you need to be generous to others and appreciate what they do.
So, top skill for digital people, but planners in general is leave out the intellectual posturing, surrender a bit of control and just get on with working together. And that IS commercial - you may lose a little share of budget, or adapt your own work to fit the collective etc, but that's better than clients losing patience and either firing the ones who refuse to play ball, or consolidating everything to get things done quicker.
I'm not the only one whothinks agencies, and most specifically planners, need to engage with Behavioural Economics. Basing ideas on how people behave is supposed to be what we're good at. But...
..let's not fall into Emperor's New Clothes Syndrome. Most of it is really common sense. Like most credible stuff, it makes sense because we know it already, it just hasn't been codified. Take the concept of rewards to make people do stuff they don't want to.......
It also means proper research that looks at what people really do, going out and meeting them in their own environment, absorbing the culture. You won't get that in a focus group.
Speaking of groups, I was reading in this that groups are very bad at making decisions. They tend to polarise around very radical decisions, or very moderate ones, depending in the group dynamic. So you either go too far, or you get nowhere. Bad for focus groups and testing work, worse for workshops. Are brainstorms etc really useful for anything more than getting client buy in? Are the late nights getting stimulus ready better spent having a few people that work together well kicking some stuff around?