Monthly Archives: April 2009

100 Days

100 days in power for an amazing man… 

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Obama 2009

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My Marathon

My legs are still aching from the London marathon 2 days ago. I completed the course in 3 hours and 48 minutes which is a personal best for me. I’m really pleased with that effort. All the training paid off and I raised over £1,000 for charity.

Unfortunately, the chip on my shoe was faulty and I can’t get any of my splits off the site. My published time will be compiled from photo evidence but this will be from the clock at the finish line which started at the start of the race rather than when I crossed the start line. I shouldn’t be annoyed but I am!

Another piece of technology that appeared to spectacularly fail was the Adidas innovation that allowed supporters to follow runners via mobile internet and SMS messages. A few people I know experienced problems with it and were not kept abreast of runners movements.

It’s a shame because it was a great idea. Hopefully next year…the glitches will have been ironed out… After saying that I wouldn’t – I’ve already registered for the next one

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Simplifiers and Complicators

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a focus group for a frozen food manufacturer that we are currently working on. Plethora of velour aside, it was an incredibly insightful experience. It really does demonstrate how we as agencies can so frequently work in silos, preaching an approach whereby the consumer is at the heart of everything without practising it.

So…we as an agency had meticulously planned a communications strategy for this brand, isolating a fertile territory based on a detailed competitor review, product benefits and what we considered some fairly decent consumer insights. Out of which came a proposition that really resonated with the client. Job done. Happy days. Cue much back slapping/tweets of delight. The reality last night was that the ‘mums’ in the focus group didn’t care about half the stuff we thought they did. The majority of their thoughts were gut instincts and not rational decisions – they thought the way they did because of who they were and the experiences that they have enjoyed and endured as a mother’.

So do we as agencies as a whole need to reflect on the methods that we use to develop solutions. If our audiences decision making processes are frequently irrational, then how can we expect to develop ideas rationally or ‘structurally’ . Frequently the best ideas are based on a gut reaction, i.e. an emotional spark rather than the outcome of a rational process. So why do we tend to rely on rational processes. I guess the answer is that we charge for our work so we need to justify what we do. As well as this, our ‘ideas’ frequently circulate around a client company without the benefit of being presented personally, and as such an insight needs to be heavily supported within a structure. Whilst such structures are important, I think we could sometimes deliver better results if we stripped away the processes, looked at business problems in isolation and went with our instinct.

Lets look at ‘The Apprentice’ last week. The teams were asked to develop an advertising campaign for a breakfast cereal and whilst one team came up with a terrible concept of a superhero who wears his pants outside his trousers – ‘Pantsman’ , the other team developed a cracking concept of ‘treasureflakes’. The insight was so so simple. The cereal looks like bits of treasure – berries are rubies, dried banana bits are coins etc. When I first heard it – I thought it was useless and overly simplistic. You surely can’t build a campaign based on something so innocuous…or can you? The more I thought about it though, the more I realised how clever it was. Now, this was the concept devised by the group with no marketing experience whilst the experienced marketing consultant got her knickers in a twist trying to apply what she knew were sound marketing principles…

Simple yet effective

So what am I getting at? I think simplicity is everything. Don’t think of a previous solution that answered a similar problem, appreciate that nothing is too ‘basic’ or ‘obvious’ and get people who have nothing to do with communications to act as a sounding board…because sometimes in an attempt to justify what we do…we just end up overcomplicating things…

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Look into the crystal ball…

See the future with Tim Berners Lee…

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Running London

Just a quick reminder that this Sunday I am running the London Marathon on behalf of Children with Leukaemia


First, the fun stuff… We are having a bit of a post marathon blowout at The Metropolitan by Westbourne Park Tube from 4pm. It would be great if you could join and celebrate with a few beers. We have reserved a big downstairs area so should be lots of fun. The pub is located at 60 Great Western Road, Westbourne Park, W11 1AB.


Now, the serious stuff…


I need YOUR help and donations. I know money is a bit tight at the moment but any donation be it large or small would me more than appreciated. It only takes 3 minutes to do and makes a massive difference to this amazing charity…. I’ve spent the past few months pounding pavements, running round parks and drinking copious amount of soft drinks so it would be great if you could help me make it worthwhile with whatever you can afford…. Just go to to support me…


Hopefully see you all  on Sunday…

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The Cognotive Surplus

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. A new job is always stressful and tends to take something of an emotional toll. That’s why I haven’t written anything on my blog. I’ve been too busy. I have needed to just chill out. I have needed to let my brain completely disengage.

It was after watching this video of Clay Shirky that I realised that I wasn’t too busy…and I didn’t need to completely disengage by doing nothing. The reality was that I couldn’t be bothered. I was being lazy. Shirky talks about ‘cognotive surplus’ and how everybody has time and that this time is far better spent sharing, contributing etc rather than just being a passive consumer of…crap basically!

Its really inspiring stuff. He makes a great point about Wikipedia. I like Wikipedia. I regularly use it. I have however never contributed to it. I have certain interests that I could write about. Admittedly most of my entries would be about youth players from a North London football team who play in red and white…but at least I would be contributing. And if we all contributed, imagine the increase in the level of power we would be beginning to harness.

This is the point. There seems to be a tacit acknowledgement that to relax – we need to do something mind-numbing. We need to dumb down and do nothing. The challenge I am setting myself is to do the opposite and utilise free time to make my brain work in different ways – to experience new things.

Last Friday, I went to a (like mind) coffee morning. This is where likeminded creative people have a natter over some coffee. It’s not scary and not high brow like people I spoke to thought it would be…but is fun, inspiring and relevant. I really enjoyed it because it really fits with the idea of filling the cognotive surplus with STUFF.

On Twitter today, a guy called Iain Tait, whose blog I really like was challenged online to fulfill some unusual tasks – making butter, knitting etc. He set out to achieve these things and did so. It wasn’t self congratulatory but summed up his curiousity in life. Thats my task in hand… To challenge, to think…to not simply accept…

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Jumping on the bandwagon…

Today is the first day in my new job. I’ve joined a relatively small agency with big plans. It’s quite different from Engine towers and there’ll be no skinny cappuccinos and yoghurt coated cranberries from the cafeteria, but right from the off there is a positive atmosphere in the office and you can tell people are passionate about what they do – which is why I am here…First days are always a bit weird, but everyone seems really nice and have been welcoming.


A couple of things have come to mind today – both of which are on the theme of ‘bandwagon jumping’. The first is the subject of paid for advertising and when it has a positive effect and when it has a negative effect and the second is ‘Innocent’ style colloquial chat.


So, on the subject of paid for advertising, I ‘googled’ my new agencies name and up came another agencies name as a Google sponsored link. Now, this struck me as being more detrimental than positive. There are certain products and services where being top of a search list is beneficial – plumbers, car dealerships, cleaners etc. Creative agencies are not one of those. I would be amazed if an agency has gained a client after receiving a call from someone saying ‘I ‘googled’ advertising agency in London and thought you might be able to help me’. As such, it seems a cynical attempt to jump on the bandwagon of another person’s success. I’ve seen it before with popular blogs and I can see absolutely no benefit to those in question. It just struck me as a complete waste of money…


The second thought that has come to mind is the use of irreverent colloquial chatter on agency and brand websites. I worked at iris and I think that they still get this right – as there is still an intelligent humour about the copy. It is short, succinct and fun. I looked at some others sites though and found some real flannel. I guess it’s the ‘Innocent’ effect. Their tone and style was novel at the time and directly reflects their product and their beliefs. They think in this way as opposed to agencies and brands who have tried to replicate their tone and jump on the populist bandwagon… I read of an example where Barclays Bank had a sign saying ‘I love it when you touch my buttons’ next to their cash dispenser. NO! What does colloquial banter have to do with the brand image of Barclays? I want my bank to be smart, polite and knowledgeable providing me with the best possible rates and services. I don’t want them to be my best mate. In short – brands and agencies need to stay true to their beliefs and not jump on bandwagons if they want to ensure longevity in this business.