Tuesday, 28 February 2012

sunday summary, on a tuesday

in my defence i have no defence; i need to get back on top of it. one month in, we were asked to make a 1 minute video about our experience on the course so far. i don't really think in film but taught myself imovie (yes yes i know) and made this:

coppola eat your heart out.

this week george boyter, creative director extraordinaire, set a two day strategy project. our task was to help farmers by-pass the big supermarkets and sell their fresh-to-market produce from the local farms. we teamed up into pairs and attempted to decipher a customer profile of the kinds of people who would buy vegetables and meat from this fictitious company. after some eager brainstorming we went to george for some advice, only to be knocked back to the beginning as he coaxed the insight out of us with some well worded questions. we spent the evening getting as far as the proposition only to see george again the next day and be informed that we'd gone off on the wrong route. with two hours to spare before the final presentation we managed to pull it all together having started over for a third and final time.

stephanie and i are currently working on making it shiny and presentable and i'll upload it once it's done. the workshop taught us to get used to turning ideas around quickly, it also taught us not to stereotype and make assumptions when determining the target market - the importance of going out and getting amongst people is invaluable. it was really helpful to have a clear strategy outline to build around.

on friday i polished my shoes and took a few of my classmates with me to the plush offices of dlkw lowe in kensington to meet zoe verrion. we hoped to gain a different perspective on the current state of the industry and to learn more about the role of an account director. zoe spoke to us about the tight timing of pitches and broke down the roles of planners, the accounts department and the creatives for us. she spoke to us about dlkw lowe's current clients and the rewarding challenge of working for a company like domestos in india; targeting women about the very personal topic of toilet hygiene and teaching them the importance of basic sanitation. zoe enjoys being an account director because she's involved right from the beginning of the process to the end. she explained how all the agencies are currently racing to get a clear picture of how social media can actually be profitable for a brand. zoe was very generous with her time, engaging and answered all of our questions.

the course so far is very much to do with what you make of it but i feel that i have a weekly confirmation that i'm doing the right thing.

Monday, 20 February 2012

an agency visit, a workshop and a book walk into a blog

last week started really well with a trip to adam & eve to meet james read, one of their young planners. i was particularly interested in finding out about how to create a strategy for a brand; how you come up with an end line from a vague brief. james talked to us about the hunches that lead to his propositions and how it’s important that he backs up his research with social knowledge. he explained about establishing a brand model, summing up exactly what the brand is about, researching the brand’s competitors and about tapping into a cultural movement, as ben & jerry did with their back to the roots culture. james linked us up with this simon selik ted talk and advised us to check out the royal mail media centre to access the mintel reports. i really enjoyed meeting james and i'm very keen to get a placement at adam &eve.

later in the week rick keisewetter ran a two day comedy workshop for us where we made with the funnies. rick, who’s a copywriter and comedian, explained to us that it’s hard being chinese, because he’s japanese... we learnt about joke structure; the set up and punch of a story but the main thing that we learnt, which applies to both comedy and advertising is the importance of editing. less is more. through doing a lot of writing and reading aloud we discovered how you can make a phrase much punchier and funnier by cutting it, often almost in half, to fantastic effect.

a little snippet from my set:

“This was followed by Dad giving me ‘the talk’ over dinner, using Monopoly he explained about passing go and not picking up my £200 as Mum cringed into her Shepherd’s Pie.”

rick was really engaging and patient. it was a helpful way of learning the importance of concise communication as well as having a laugh and getting to know my classmates better.

i also finished reading dave trott’s ‘creative mischief’ last week. i really enjoyed it, it was accessible, informative and i recommend it to anyone and everyone (for what my review’s worth). some of the main points that i’ve taken from it are:

  purchase decisions are made on desire and permission.
  don’t be right, be interesting.
  people buy a product for what it does but they buy a brand for what it says.
  the difference between scepticism and cynicism (and all this time i thought i was a cynic).
  “like” is a feeling, not a thought.
  there is a need for emotion and reason within advertising; no grit, no pearl!
  the brief should be the floor, not the ceiling.

read it.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

carpe that goddam diem!

one month of the course already gone. it's a reminder of how quickly the year is going to piss off into the past.

we recently had an induction to use letterpress where rupert regaled us with stories about scalping, nose-breaking and historical reenactments. i hadn't done much letterpress since my last induction in camberwell as it allows me to get tangled up in perfectionism and ends up being a time suck. not so my friend rosie, who is the don of typeset, the master of bookbinding and who has recently gone to norway to do an artist's residency. clever sausage. you can see her blog here and her norway flickr here.

we are not all so gifted so i got on with picking "an advertising related word" and setting it.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

on a serious note

last week we went to anomaly in london where we were lucky enough to have a talk by the herdmeister himself mark earls who talked to us about the difference between independent and social trends. mark's philosophy is that we, as humans, are herd animals who act as a result of other people's behaviour, gaining useful knowledge by being social and relying on other people. never before has this behaviour been more easy to prove than with google analytics where the short and long tail distributions of topics can clearly be seen. the importance of long tail distribution within a brand, especially of the bell curve that comes after the initial peak is the most desirable objective when advertising as it spreads to a much wider audience in the long run and builds through word of mouth.

mark's presentation was really clear and visually explained the crux of what the social element brings to the communication industries. you can see mark giving a similar talk at the RSA here.

after mark's talk, geoff gray, one of the partners at anomaly, gave a presentation about anomaly's principles and the current state of advertising. he highlighted the fact that we must think of media as part of the ideas and not simply as an afterthought. this showed in the campaigns they've run for brands such as diesel, converse and umbro.

it was really impressive to see how, often with very low budgets, how being culturally connected and strategically creative can create hugely successful campaigns, simply by leaning into things that people already care about. this interest and understanding of people is what has drawn me to planning in the first place and it's led me to believe that the main job of a planner is making sure that it's going to work.

Monday, 6 February 2012

i'd like to alain his de botton...

alain de botton is my favourite philosopher, he is not from ancient greece, has no defining facial hair, nor is he a smug arse. ever since i read the consolations of philosophy i have loved him. "his stepmother janet is a competition bridge player." what a beautiful fact. he is of course married but let's not hold that against him, there have got to be plenty more interesting, passionate, articulate men out there right? RIGHT?!...

Sunday, 5 February 2012

week 3 agency visits

a picture that serves no purpose
a blog post without an image is like roast chicken without gravy;
a bit dry.

this week we got our grubby student feet into some agencies in order to find out more about how they work, the role of planners and the future of advertising. a few of my classmates and i were lucky enough to secure meetings with mr. adland suit himself; dan shute at creature of london, as well as doug baker from agency republic who wip'd us into shape over a coffee in battersea and last but not least dan hill from akqa who told us about being a detective and a midwife. each one was incredibly generous with their time and here's what i learnt:

dan s says:

  • agencies do their best work when they're pitching for projects - that's when you get to properly unleash your creativity.
  • rather than dividing into strict roles, creature is generally split by the people who make up the ideas and the people who make them happen.
  • advertising is about packaging ideas and making them buyable.
  • creature consider themselves a creative company rather than an ad agency.

creature place great importance on collaboration. i believe that their warhol's factory approach to creative projects is the future of great ideas, honing a select group of different people's skills for projects from exhibitions to theatre productions via insightful advertising.

doug says:

  • planners are curious and interested in people and culture with a constant desire to keep learning.
  • the reason agency republic got started was in order to put digital back into the industry.
  • with large agencies such as dare and beattie mcguinness bungay collaborating, remaining agencies will become more specialist.

doug was once asked for "proven innovation" by a client (clients, tsk)! even as a digital agency, interest in things and people is key. this was a comfort to me as before speaking to doug, the word 'digital' had a daunting undertone as i believed i was too analog to come up with digital strategies.

dan h says:

  • brilliant agencies existed before planners; you need planning, not planners.
  • avoid vanilla and simply reflecting the research, you need an imagination.
  • get comfortable with the fact that you're not an expert, something is bound to happen to you that you haven't seen before.
  • you need to know where you are, where you want to get to, how you're going to get there and whether you're there yet.

when asked to roughly divide up his day dan explained that the majority of it was spent talking to the creatives with the rest of it in meetings, taking briefs and questioning the clients. the contact you get with the client as a planner as opposed to a creative is something that appeals to me; one of the perks being that you get to see lots of different industries.

general truths:

  • there was a lot of mention of 't-shaped people', which essentially means you have the core pillar of what you need in order to be a good planner/account manager/creative but you then have branches of other skills and interests outside of your specialism too.
  • the importance of lateral thinking in order to be a planner as well as people skills.
  • always challenge the brief - find what's at the very heart of it. even if it seems off brief but helps solve the problem, do it.
  • insights - the understanding that informs your strategy, not just common sense but a useful handle on the message you want the consumer to see.

the excuse of being a student again has given me the confidence to go and knock on these doors. getting to speak to people who are so passionate about what they do has been a fantastic boost (as if one were needed) and makes me all the more sure that i'm heading along the right path to a future career in advertising.