Monday, 8 February 2010

A Roses shoo-in

As a rule, I don't normally criticise other people's output in the blog.

I think that should be the preserve of those who've demonstrated their creative credentials beyond doubt. And as I've consistently failed to trouble compilers of The Great Advertising canon, I hesitate to point fingers.

On this, though, I think I'm on pretty safe critics' ground:

Interestingly, the Tudor Rose blog proudly states: "we had a choice of paying for highly paid actors to do our new TV adds [sic] or keep it in house.We kept it in house, and used all our own family members. This keeps us in-line with who we are..."

That'll be rank amateurs with no notion of quality, then....

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Trade secrets

Having promised to protect with my life the fine detail of the marketing revolution therein, I take delivery of another set of corporate design guidelines.

I skip past the  primary and secondary colour palette. Pantones 4625 C and 158 C. Radical

I glance at the chosen typfaces. Helvetica Black and Helvetica Neue Light. I can see why these guys don't want a word of this to leak out.

I arrive at the recommendations for copy. Incredibly, it suggests I make my writing 'friendly', 'approachable' and 'conversational... as if talking across the table to a friend.'

Not just that. They also I insist I make it 'clear', 'engaging' and 'honest.'

Jeez. It's going to be a wrench adapting my usual hostile, standoffish and downright deceitful house style, but I'll give it my best shot...

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Words that tell you the job is dead in the water No 2

The meeting has gone well. The Chief Suit and his Delectable Young Executive have nodded and 'Mmm'd enthusiastically in all the right places, and now, on the table between you, there are three neat piles of work.

The Suit rolls his shoulders and gathers his thought. It's time for him to bless the meeting with his opinion.

His hand hovers above the first pile. "This idea is pretty much what the client is expecting, I think.  I certainly wouldn't be uncomfortable taking it into  the meeting.

"This route" - addressing the middle pile now -  "is really interesting. I like the direction you've pushed it in and I'm sure there's something in it we can talk about, don't you?" DYE nods brightly in agreement.

Turning to the third and final stack of ideas: "This one might be just a little too left field. I think it's really clever, but I'm wondering if it's more of a revolution then the evolution we're looking for right now. I'd say it was probably something we'd look at running in Year Two..."

And that's it. It's dead.

Like tomorrow, Year Two never comes. It lies there, just beyond the horizon, a tantalising Shangri La of boundless TV budgets, brave clients and expansive outdoor campaigns that  recedes with every step you take towards it.

It's is the worse kind of creative kiss off because it leaves you with a lingering promise of 'giving it another go', like an ex-lover whose memory you can't shake. But it's an empty promise, devoid of hope and tinged with bitterness.

Some creatives claimed to have seen Year Two. Some to have walked its gilded streets. In almost every case, however, it's a delusion forged in a mind fevered by the sixth rewrite of a brochure for a client offering bespoke back office support software for the financial sector.

If you suffer death by Year Two, put it behind you with all the dignity you can muster. Accept it, move on. And remember, there's always next year.

Monday, 16 November 2009

They said what?

Awesome buzzwordage from the Kellogg's marketing team last week after their global realignment from JWT to Leo Burnett:

"As Kellogg continues to optimize its marketing model, the company has identified the need to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of its agency partnerships to enable more scalable thinking, ideation and ad execution, and to enhance brand consistency and strategic alignment across the portfolio."

Besides making me snort coffee out through my nose all over the keyboard, it also made me ponder just have much the creative and marketing industries have changed their relative positions since I first started work.

Back in the eighties, they'd brief us on an item of seasonal POS. We'd produce a piece of high art with a nod towards the proposition buried deep within one of its complex sub texts.

They'd say it was 'a bit clever' and you 'really had to think about it.' We'd roll our eyes and ask what was wrong with work that made the audience think, exactly?

They'd go off to a print shop and get 'Summer Sale Now On', white out of red on an A2 hanging board.

They sought simplify. We sought to complicate.

Today, it's the marketing people who obscure, obfuscate and hide their meaning behind dense walls of waffle and double speak. While it's we who implore them to tell us, in words of one syllable, what it is they're trying to say.

They seek to complicate. We seek to simplify.

Better minds than mine have exposed the void at the heart of today's industry psychobabble, most notably at The Ad Contrarian.

I just wonder how long it will be before the wheel turns full circle and we can take ownership of ideation as viable strategic paradigm once more...

Monday, 2 November 2009

Your bare faced lie is in the post

Any agency staffers familiar with this kind of ‘360 Degree Thinking’ planning hokum...

...might be interested in hearing it has an equivalent in the freelance jungle. It’s called the ‘Invoice Settlement Delay Cycle’. Initiated by a polite phone call some 6 weeks after payment is due, it goes something like this: 

1. Could you e-mail a copy of the invoice? I can’t seem find it on the system.

2. I’ve flagged it for payment. There’s a cheque run next Tuesday

3. He’s on holiday this week, but it’s on his desk for signing

4. E-mail me your bank details and I’ll organise a payment.

5. I'm afraid (insert Head of Account’s name) no longer works for the company. Call us again on Monday.

6. Could you e-mail a copy of the invoice? I can’t seem find it on the system....

In the hands of a skilled operator (say, a Design and Events Marketing company in Macclesfield) and allowing for two weeks between stages, this system can postpone payment to a degree that makes Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce look like a quickie divorce while grinding your very will to live into the dust.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Since when was I not creative?

It happened again yesterday, in a conversation with a headhunter. 

I’d asked if it was worth my sending in a CV because I saw they were after freelancers. 

“Probably not,” she replied. “We only really deal with creatives.”

“Excuse me?”

“You know, designers, web designers, artworkers. That sort of thing. Not copywriters.”

I first noticed this curious distinction creeping in at certain kind of DM agency four or five years ago. I’d get harassed Account Directors standing over my desk asking me to “come up with a couple of headlines and a para or two” so one of the ‘creatives’ could drop them into the layout.

Since then, it seems to have spread like a rash through the industry. 

Maybe the creative team is a thing of the past in a Project Managed, social media marketing age.

Or perhaps, like the lumbering land based ancestors of the whales, writers are actually de-evolving and sliding back into the warm, primeval waters of the copy pool.

Bernbach would be turning in his grave. 

Personally though, I’d rather take my chances in the swamp than a world in which any Mac monkey who can slap down a spread in the Screwfix catalogue is feted as  ‘creative’ while the wordsmiths don’t get a look in.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Hot Fridging

Apparently, one of the key indicators of recession is a rise in the number of people bringing their lunch to work.

Some agencies seem to have capitalised on this by investing in particularly small fridges, thus encouraging employees to arrive early so they can secure a place for theirs on its shelves.

For instance, I took this picture at 8.50am in the kitchen of a well-known south Manchester design agency:*

 The strategy can backfire though: Having finished earlier than expected, I grabbed my butties on the way out, only to discover at home that I’d made off with the Business Development Director’s brie and grape on brown. Sorry Julie.

*I feel it only fair to point out that since this picture was taken, the agency has moved into smart new premises that enjoy an expansive, American style fridge.