Sunday, 31 January 2010

Bad ads #2

Ah, the first example of pointless shots of cute animals being used to advertise some company

I have no idea what Ark H are or do. I just feel sorry for the slumbering Chick that was scooped up, and has no idea that its image rights were abused in this terrible piece of art.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Bad-ads #1

Well, as promised, here is the first in my series of horrendous advertising industry ads. Found in the classified section of a trade magazine, I can't even work out what the hell this is for.

Not only does the mini look very very wrong, its not good to have a long mini. Just get a bigger car! Technically the mini is only about 2 meters longer too. The logo reminds me of Doncaster Funiture Stores and the car reminds me of Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson annoying hair and opinions.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Online principles

I think that when we all started work, our intentions on the internet we pure. It was to be used for work purposes only.

. . .

Well maybe its OK to visit BBC Sport of some other respected site – we all need to keep up on the day’s key events.

Then comes the administration stage. You take the example from your peers that it is OK to ring the bank at lunch, or pay you bills online. It helps to streamline your life and couldn’t be done at home. Oh no. There is nothing more refreshing to see someone furiously typing away with a perplexed look on their face, only to find out that when they pick up the phone it is to complain to Vodafone, or look up a swimming pool in Clapham.

On to stage three. When you are settled in you start to think how it would be nice to save time on all of your personal life, so you start to shop on line. It’s a nice break from work, and gives you something to look forward to. I can’t count the number of time I’ve seen people slide out the credit card onto the desk to enter into Amazon, or any other non-worklike escapist dream.

I was recently at this stage and hanging onto my one principle of Internet usage. I would shop, browse, organise my life, but I wouldn’t go on Facebook. No social networking for me. No way sir, not in this office, another office or any office.

Lets just saw the blue and white beast got the better of me and now I part of the club which sees how far the boundaries of NSFW (not suitable for work) goes. Videos, online rudeness twitter, games, gambling, TV, music, surveys – so many ways to escape.

We recently have an IT crackdown where servers were switched and most fun sites blocked. Only then do you realise what you are running from . . . being an executive.

Bonus Entry

Why can’t those in the ad industry make good ads?

In my last few years as an executive I have been keeping a meticulous scrap book of terrible advertising executions and ill advised campaigns. They come from the pages of our most loved industry magazines. The mostly involve a horrendous pun, or erroneous use of animals.

On the subject of animal irrelevance, please see below. Word of the Day – Irrelephant

I will release the bad ads periodically. Keep watching.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Notes from a meeting

I thought I would brighten up the page a little with this picture (sorry about the quality).

Many frustrated executives will recognise the kind of mind numbing boredom and bubbling fury from pointless meetings.

You know, the kind that are set up just to make people feel good or important. You end up wanting the floor to open and swallow you up. Usually any real work or outcome is avoided by some pain the ass putting a spanner in the works.

In this particular meeting there was a man who looked like a mole, the highlight was looking out of the window and seeing a majestic crow on the roof of a lorry. At least he was having a good time.

I also seem to have invented the world's most complicated geometric shape. Not bad for an hours work.

This guy sums it all up sometimes:

I like to think I do it more eloquently though.

In defence of advertising

Everyone who works in the same industry as me gets trapped in a certain kind of conversation from time to time.

Someone is likely to say ‘so tell me does advertising really work?’
This is often based on their notion that the ad they have just seen on TV for Toilet Duck doesn’t make them want to run to the shop to buy Toilet Duck.

It is a pretty stupid question, I mean come on!
Are the billions of pounds spent on advertising each year a complete waste?

Not everyone is aware or even interested in the psychological impact of advertising, and what leads you on your journey to choice. Those who work in advertising are not immune to its effects, although we may be more aware. Doing my shopping online has led to me spending hours in store (when I do a ‘live shop’) looking at offers, the position of products and trying to work out what Tesco wants me to buy.

The real issue is that people think being affected by advertising makes them stupid. That guidance in a world of this much choice is not necessary, and that everything can genuinely be judged on value.

Just remember, next time someone asks you whether advertising works, don’t get caught out. Unless you construct the most succinct and convincing answer you aren’t getting out of the conversation without looking silly.

Sunday, 24 January 2010


Who starts trends, and what makes them cool?
Are trends unstoppable forces reliant upon market conditions and normal human intuition, or are they the products or trailblazers and pioneers?

In my experience they are neither. Trends are usually the products of entrepreneurial and enthusiastic go getters. Or as I like to call them, charlatans.

The media industry is like a youngster who will sign up for any pharmaceutical trial for any meagre injection of cash it offers. Chop off a limb and study the results? "OK". Live with rats for a week for £30 – "sure thing". A trial addiction to Heroin? "Sounds harmless".

Let’s not go into any of the real issues that beset the media industry – 3D TV, micro charging for online content, channel fragmentation. Sticking to the ‘trends’ is much more fun.

Who decides what the trends will be? Websites looking to make a buck from a report they’ve created which is loosely based on research? Industry websites desperate for acclaim and audience? Or media bodies looking to generate revenue?

Well . . . all three. But of course, they share a common goal. Industry acceptance. These ‘experts’ insist that ‘next-besting’ or ‘glocal-isation’ will be big in 2010 yet these concepts exist outside the realms of reality. Anyone with a publisher or relevant audience can create a trend based on their expertise or intuition. With a few carefully selected examples at the end of the year, these can be ‘proved’ too.

Our industry is too quick to pat itself on the back by discovering these trends.

And what is your predicted trend? I hear you ask. Well, I won’t profer any. Unfortunately, even the Charlatans don’t listen to executives.

Office conversation

Ah the joys of the open plan office.

The lack of privacy, the lack of escape from those who have been popping the stupid pills, and the close proximity to those you despise.

Working open plan is genuinely great for honing social skills, fending off boredom and building relationships. I’ve known nothing else in an office, so have come to accept its funny ways. Yet not having an office is a bitter sweet dose.

I love the chit chat, the banter, the cultural discussion. The constant conversation can make your small part, in a small machine, in a big world, seem important and righteous. However, the dangers of this style of work are twofold:

1. The self inflated importance of your work can lead to you drowning yourself and your conversational partner in a thick sea of pain and boredom. (Note to self – stop discussing your career at length when chatting up girls, its even more difficult for them to care if you don’t too!)

2. Your office ‘mates’ take on the mantle of being like the friends that you don’t really like. You know, the ones who have found a hobby which has taken over their life, like flying planes, girlfriends, or God. I’m running out of friends to ‘hide’ on Facebook. Call me picky, but smug updates on love, accounts of a nice meal you’ve eaten and general self pity hold no interest for this executive, even if I have known you for 10 years. It’s just not good self promotion. Remember, Facebook is a personalised shark pool, unless you pick off the weaker fish, you’ll become one.

We don’t like to let our ‘office friends’ into see the real us. Well, I know I don’t. We tend to stick to safe conversations about things which are universally ‘liked’. You know, coffee table culture. Topics include:

a) The latest ‘cool’ band – Razorlight, Scouting for girls, the Fray.
b) American import TV shows – Lost, Flash Forward, Prison Break, Glee
c) Universally liked funny men – Michael Macintyre, Russell Howard, Eddie Izzard.

I pray that you agree with me when I critique the afformentioned cultural players as follows:
a) Tepid dross
b) A slow and painful road to disappointment and eventual abandonment to better TV
c) Why do these men exist? Macintyre must be culled for the sanity of the country

I have lost count of the number of inverted commas in this column. I’m sure by now you have worked out how cynical, sarcastic and reactionary this executive is, but I like to think I have some cultural critique worth paying attention too.

That’s enough me slipping into a tirade on office workers cultural choices. I started by discussing the pros and cons of open plan chat.

I leave you with one of the most enjoyed topics in our office. The ‘I-like game’. It is almost exclusively food based.

It usually starts with someone saying something like–

“Ooh, you know what I’d like now? A Wispa”

‘Aaahhh, I would love a Crunchie” pipes up another bored and hungry co-worker.

“I like snickers” – says someone else out of the blue.
I start to think “I don’t care what you like Mr. Co-Worker”, but its too difficult to stay out of the game. I can’t do it . . .

“A coffee and a Dime bar” – the words are out of my mouth before I can stop them.

“Dime bar?!?!? Oh no” someone says – a controversial choice.

The game repeats itself throughout the days and weeks with different food topics. Crisps, Donuts, Fizzy drinks, Sandwiches and the like.

That’s what happens when the nation has evolved into a race of pasty, unmotivated amorphous blobs grasping out at any high calorie comforting foodstuff they can think of. Only most of the time, we can’t even be bothered to walk the 100 yards to the nearest shop. The chocolate stays just out of arms reach

Bullshit Buzzwords

In every industry, we have to put up with terrible business buzzwords. After all, ‘blue sky thinking’ enables us to crack the real issues at hand.

I jest.

I never have, and never will be a fan of using pointless phrases to describe a situation, process or result. The real problem is that people don’t question these meaningless phrases any more.

I read an amusing piece by Armando Iannuchi where he describes how a representative from Capita Symonds referred to the congestion charge as a ‘Greenfield Opportunity’, and how he felt like he was the only person in the world thinking ‘hang on a minute! That's not a real world phrase’

Whilst Armando, myself and millions of others feel left behind by such wanky new-speak, the problem is that it doesn’t pay to question buzzwords. Flagging someone up when they let fly with a phrase such as ‘360 degree’, ‘brand platform’ or ‘hard-wiring’ with no genuine context just makes them feel stupid. The attention then turns to you as some sort of spiteful Neanderthal naysayer looking to instil your archaic principles of ‘common sense’

N.B. The term ‘common sense’ brands you as a knuckle dragging Daily Mail reading Nick Griffin sympathiser. Just try mentioning it, you’ll be mocked in seconds.

We return to the dilemma of an executive. Do you drop buzzwords left right and centre to massage the egos of the all powerful Media leaders and fit in with the crowd, or do you stick to you 20th century principles of ‘common sense’ and plain talk?

About a year ago I found the answer. Buzzword bingo. Print of sheets for all the executives and juniors in the office containing around 20 different buzzwords:

Any non-sensical acronyms
full service,
having 'the conversation'
Chasing down leads
entrepreneurial spirit,
top down,
Business silos
Giving names to projects like the are special opps e.g. Project Golden Eagle
Solid foundations

Etc etc – (please feel free to add to the list. It is a real relief to write down your hated buzzwords as if to prove they don’t belong in the real world. They don’t belong in someone face hole, ready to come out like a putrid gas. They belong written on a witty and sarcastic blog page).

Whenever someone utters one of these abominable phrases, you can tick it off at the privacy of your own desk, sniggering at the idiocy of others. The game then develops as you trying and drop in as many buzzwords to conversations as possible, without getting noticed.

This has provided great relief over the last year from the menace of evolving media language, yet it has its own perils from when you utter buzzwords yourself. Many friends and colleagues will fail to distinguish between you – the sarcastic purveyor of ‘common sense’, and you ‘the media buzzword wanker’.

I feel so dirty, I’m off for a mind shower.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The art of self promotion

Facebook has revolutionised the way people interact. This seems like an obvious statement to make, but becoming an online entity has led people to think about how they are perceived.

When people start to publicise their lives through updates, pictures and links, they have to think about the basic principles of marketing.

Who is my audience?
How can I reach them with relevance?
Privacy issues, who can see my messages?
How can my audience interact with me?

It is not just Facebook though. The explosion in Social networking opportunites has led to a once brilliantly simple way of promoting yourself to become a fragmented mess.

To this executive, it seems as though the history of the internet can be summed up like this:

Web 1.0 - Hard to use – not enough content
Web 2.0 – Easy to use – Big web brands and site aggregators
Web 3.0 – Hard to use – Too much great content

We always think that if we subscribe to enough newsletters, visit Digg, Youtube, B3ta and news sites enough we can catch up with the myriad of entertainment and content there is on the web. It’s that constant fear of missing out on something great. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side.

I came across recently. It is a site which aggregates all major football content providers in one simple screen. Whilst this is a great site, it is frighteningly large and makes me realise how we need our defined and narrow opinions. You can’t afford the time for a balanced view any more, we stick to sites you know and trust.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a guide to the internet based on your interests and personality?

What are your hobbies?
Your political stance?
The issues you care most about?

. . . well then these sites are for you.
Here’s a guide of the best newsletters for each field of your interest, and the best site aggregators.

Ironically, the only place this could be published is on the fast changing environment that everyone has access to. When it was published, it is unlikely that anyone could find it and it would be hell of finding great ways to publicise it.

Ladies and Gentlemen – “The internet”

Monday, 18 January 2010

So what is it you do?

There comes a time in every Executives life where you have to explain what you do for a living.

We are all guilty of not really caring what people do (past the initial description). This is especially true if you deign to be something other than a teacher, fireman, or something equally simple to understand.

However, it is only when you fully immerse yourself in just one of the thousands of job industries out there, that you appreciate how small a cog everyone is. I always feel sorry for fresh faced teenagers and graduates clinging onto the dream that one of the 10 jobs they know anything about will be the perfect match for them. I say that because I once was one.

When people ask me what I do for a living, however my times I’ve had to do it, it never gets any easier. It should be easy when you work in a fast paced cool industry like advertising, right? Jobs always get less interesting from the initial description. For example, you start by saying:

‘I work in advertising’
‘Oh cool’ they reply’

If the conversation stopped there you would be cool. That guy who works in advertising, he was cool. I don’t know what he does but its probably something pretty awesome. People are just too inquisitive though.

‘So what do you do in advertising’

What comes next for any executive isn’t pretty:
Planning, sales, spreadsheets, marketing, typesetting, reports . . . whatever it is.

Unless you reply by saying that you wrote, directed, acted in and scheduled that funny TV ad they like, the split second of limelight on you, the executive, has vanished.

My advice? Don’t humour the inquisitive. Just stick to your guns, guns which fire bullets of vague descriptions and lies.

Well at least I don’t work in a job so boring just the first syllable gives people the uncontrollable urge to shut down and black out - A gravel technician, a soft drink dispenser maintenance operative, a recruitment consultant (someone who spends their whole career watching others fulfil their career dream), or maybe a parking attendant.

I guess this raises an interesting question, what is the most boring job in Britain? Surely it couldn’t be one in the world of media?

What is an Executive?

When it comes to work, I am an executive. I work in the UK media industry, where thought leaders and decision makers are famous and cherished. The humble executive remains terminally neglected like a middle child. There are thousands of executives throughout the country, so what exactly do they do?

According to its true definition, an executive is an all powerful entity:


1. a person or group of persons having administrative or supervisory authority in an organization.

2. the person or persons in whom the supreme executive power of a government is vested.

In business, executives are unfortunately more akin to their adjective description. The doers, rather than thinkers or leaders. “Of, pertaining to, or suited for carrying out plans, duties, etc.: executive ability”

We’re not the lowest rung on the ladder – wide eyed, ambitious and power crazed graduates - and we’re not managers of teams or groups. Executives are typically twenty-somethings being paid a fair enough wage to enjoy themselves in the big city, yet underneath every executive lies a quiet discontent. The unfulfilled potential of being a ‘doer’ not a thinker and the fact we have not been fast-tracked as hoped. The eagerness of youth has departed us, and the cynicism about this most Machiavellian industry has taken hold.

I don’t want to sound bitter, it's just that most of all, we are a group confused by opportunities - the quarter life crisis. If working with famous brands and sexy advertising is not the promised land we thought it was, then what is? Many execs are still harbouring vague ambitions to travel, set up their own business or just contribute something noteworthy before the regularity of family life dictates stability and security. Executives are a breed in a vacuum between the ambition of youth and the monotony of family life.

Looking at the term ‘executive’ led me to think about other job titles. In a world where it is judged that 85% of your lasting impression of someone is built up in the first 15 seconds of meeting them, your job title can be pretty important. It is supposed to have two components. These are firstly what you do, and how senior you are. For example Research Manager.

Ironically, executives are often missing the second component of the job title, as if simply describing what they do defines their role. For example an Account Planner is an executive as they plan . . . they do. In my relatively short time in media I have seen a plethora of ridiculous job titles. Media is essentially a sales industry where everyone is trying to sell products, services or concepts to others in the same space.

Futures Analyst
Marcomms Planning specialist
Chief Strategy Officer
Vice President of Communication
Self Facilitating Media Node

We’ve seen them all . . . well, OK the last one is borrowed from Nathan Barley, but the fact remains that in a business world all about selling yourself, Executive is a wooley title that demands little respect and is remains non-descript.