Tuesday, 27 February 2007

You either love them or hate them!

I saw this advertised in the Observer at the weekend. Now I love Marmite and Guinness, but I'm not convinced I'm going to like this, I will give it a try though. I know my girlfriend won't be kissing me after a couple of rounds of this on toast (Weird. I just noticed you have rounds of toast and rounds of Guinness). It's like someone picked the two things that make your breath smell the most and put them together. I wonder if they are going to do a Marmite flavoured Guinness as well?

Monday, 26 February 2007

More laughter please

It was my boss’s stag do at the weekend, so 15 of us trotted off to Jongleurs for a night of stand up comedy. Apparently it must have been a gay stag do. According to the hilarious Aussie Jim Jefferies we should have been in Prague watching Donkeys shitting on Cats – after all that’s what real men like him do! For some strange reason I think he may have actually done this.

Jim is very crass and extremely un-pc, I’m not sure you will ever see him on ITV1 on a Saturday evening before You've been framed. This guy was seriously funny, but there were times when you had to ask whether you should really be laughing at some of his gags. There was lots of sucking through your teeth and looking at the person next to you to see if what was OK to laugh? And sure enough 9 times out of 10 it was.

I think people found it surprisingly liberating. It was certainly eye opening to see people laughing at the very things society tells us we shouldn’t laugh at. I’d recommend going to a comedy night just get you out of the politically correct mindset that we all fall into, even just for a few hours. It certainly brings you down to earth and back in touch with what people do actually find funny when they are in a different environment. I’m sure if you took the same people and cracked a few of his jokes in a meeting you wouldn’t get the same response.

Out all three acts Jim was the only one whose name I could remember and he certainly got the most laughs. Whilst I’m not suggesting that brands make fun of people in such a manner, it is apparent that in a world when brands need to be more transparent and more human like, society is trying to make us become less human. Or the ideal human, if one exists. I think things like blogging, Youtube and Myspace are a result of people being able to express themselves in a more accurate way. It is the real them that perhaps can’t get out because society says that’s not funny.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Web 2.0 or whatever

All I seem to hear from people around the agency is web 2.0 this web 2.0 that. I like the cool things you can do on the net and how it is EVOLVING the way we communicate, but the term web 2.0 should be banished from our marketing vocabulary for ever. It's good to have another point of view on this. This is a great post that has two interesting views on the subject.

Punk planning

I feel like my first few posts have been a bit anti-establishment. I’m not sure if it’s because I'm reading Mark Earl’s Herd, or if this is generally what happens when you start a blog. I find it quite therapeutic. It allows you to get things off your chest.

I'm sort of seeing Earl's book as a bit of a kick up the backside or re-awakening of brands. It's about getting back in touch with human nature and trying to adopt the characteristics and approaches of social movements. Marketers seem to have got wrapped up in consumerism and board room talk. I think that we've forgotten the simple reasons why we interact, influence and simply find things interesting?

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Victims of our own ‘herd’ mentality?

I’ve just started reading Mark Earl’s new book Herd. I’m only a few chapters in at the moment but it seems fascinating so far. What initially struck me is the fact that our industry is a victim of its own herd mentality, with a new, unconfirmed one trying to break out. Let me explain.

There are three things that are really getting me thinking at the moment – interestingness, marketing enthusiasm and transmedia planning. All of which are imaginatively simple but not that easy to articulate to other people, particularly if starting your own agency isn’t on your CV. The thing I love about blogging is that you can get your hands on new observations from smart people without having to wait for their book to come out.

However, I do sometimes feel a bit isolated, these approaches can be hard to diffuse until it reaches the world of print. As a young planner peddling this stuff around the agency and talking to clients about it, I find that some don’t get it, some think it’s a fad or more often than not I get a response along the lines of; ‘That’s fascinating…but lets do it the usual way instead, maybe next time’. This is then followed by a pat on the head and probably some mumblings about me being bright, enthusiastic but not having much ‘commercial awareness’.

Commercial awareness is obviously important, but I think they mix this up with not conforming to agency processes, conventions and culture, or the herd. It frustrates me that agencies and clients have constructed their own realities to such an extent that they are stopping themselves from progressing and as a result being more successful.

We all seem to have lost touch with the concept of human nature and that is why I believe these approaches are hard for people to adopt. By focusing on human nature, which is sometimes hard to understand and most of all hard to measure, they make things seem simpler. As complex people, who like to make things even more complicated, we hate anything that might be too easy for us to comprehend.

I was in Dublin over New Year and there is a quote on the monument of Oscar Wilde that really stood out: “Life is not complex. We are complex. Life is simple and the simple thing is the right thing”. My aim for the next few weeks is to be a thorn in the side of our existing Herd mentality and try and sow the seeds of a new one. Not exactly sure what that is yet, but I do know it’s different, or at least more human.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Professionalism is killing creativity

I always try and get myself along to as many APG events as I can, but the talk from Jon Steel was one I wasn’t going to miss. Jon’s first book, Truth, Lies and Advertising, is probably in every planner’s bookcase. It’s the first book I ever read on the subject and I would recommend it to anyone interested in communications.

However, Jon’s got a new book out, The Perfect Pitch. There’s a clue for the theme of his presentation in the title. I had already read the book before the talk, so I knew what to expect, but there’s nothing better than hearing it from the horses mouth so to speak.

Even if you aren’t directly involved in pitches, it’s still a must read. Probably the most important point I took away was the concept of ‘professionalism’. Ultimately the agency environment has become too professional. It’s killing creativity and the development of ideas. We’ve all become too busy, too corporate, too logical and too analytical.

I was lucky enough to be involved in getting our agency’s planning team off the ground and I can really relate too this. Until you actually spend some time really looking at an agency’s processes you don’t realise how unproductive they can be. It’s easy for people to spend too much time organising and not enough time solving problems through simple observations, conversations and even intuition. Jon’s talk was full of common sense, but as they say, common sense isn’t that common.

Monday, 5 February 2007

Community culture

How timely, just as I start my blog, worrying about whether the world needs another planner with an opinion, Russell Davies feels the heat of an 'expert’. In ‘community’ lingo, he got flamed.

Although Russell doesn’t reference the culprit, you can find the blog here. I saw it posted a couple of months ago, whilst on Brandrepublic.com. For those that haven’t been on the forum it’s really bizarre. It’s like a breeding ground for jumped up advertising know it alls, so if I was Russell I wouldn’t take it to heart. Take a look; it will make you smile at least.

It’s not the specific personal attack, but the community culture thing that fascinates me. The way that they mutate over time and develop distinctive personalities. It amazes me how they can connect and influence people that would never otherwise meet, and I don’t just mean by location.

Take the Russell example. A successful, award-winning planner is upset by the comments of someone who is probably fresh out of University and has that nothing worthwhile to say. As a result he stops posting for a bit. Then think of the knock on effect. I don’t know the exact number but I’d imagine a lot of people not only view Russell’s blog everyday but also reference it and use it as a source of inspiration.

I always use forums and blogs as a starting point to get a general view of the brand and audience I’m working with. The views are often so polarised and exaggerated, but that’s the point. People aren’t held back by what other people might think and this can at least point you in a good direction. If you look harder enough you can find some gems although you do have to wade through a lot of crap. In the past it has been invaluable, particularly when working in gaming, football and even higher education. I wouldn’t base an entire idea on the evidence gained in a forum, but it’s an interesting starting point for any planner.

Thursday, 1 February 2007

Another blog by a bloody planner!

I’ve been toying with the idea of creating a blog for some time. What has put me off? Well mainly the fact that there are so many fantastic ones out there already. Take the likes of Russell Davies and Faris Yakob. These guys are almost professional bloggers on the subject of planning. So what have I got to offer the Plannersphere? Who knows, lets see what happens.

Arguably a blog is a bit of a fashion accessory for today’s modern planner, but I could spend all day reading the thoughts and comments of the industry’s most intelligent people. As a young planner I’ve certainly learnt a lot more as a result.

This post asks whether blogging is killing planning. I personally think it is great for the community, but for the time being I’m going to use it as a personal tool -a bit of a virtual scrapbook full of things that I find interesting. If you do as well that’s great.

I see a blog as an opportunity to think about things outside of everyday planning responsibilities, may be even a kind of CV that has a more personal feel to it. At the very least it is a place where I can store all the opinions, thoughts and bits of inspiration in one place. I’d hate to imagine how many planning blogs there are on the web. Never mind, here’s another.