The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


An Unrelaxing Holiday …
April 26, 2007, 7:31 am
Filed under: Comment

Hello peeps – by the time you read this, I will be getting ready to depart on my mini-holiday which basically comprises of the following elements …

  9%  Wedding preparation

17%  Seeing friends 

18%  Eating [and not the stuff I’ve recently been living off ]

28%  House buying

16%  New company development talks

10%  Flying / Driving

  2%  Chilling out with Jill

Because I will have my nuts cut off if I so much as check a blog, let alone write a post … absolutely nothing will happen until I return on the 7th May – and even then there might be nothing as I’ll of just flown in and be jetlagged as hell.

Anyway, hope you all have top weeks and I will see you a happier [read: more cynical and angry] and unhealthier [read: full of tasty badness] person in about a weeks time.

Headplus_1

Now if you have come here for the first time [Possibly because of Russell directing you to the May ‘Advertising School On The Web’ project] … hello!

I am really honoured and excited to be part of all this and will detail exactly what your project will be around May 10th.

I have to say what I will be asking you to do will be quite different to what you’ve done before – not because I felt there was anything wrong with the previous stuff [far from it] – but because I’d like to stretch out the issues you consider when developing your thinking and solutions.

I also intend to get some creatives involved in the ‘evaluation’ process – because planning is a team discipline and I think it is important we always remember and encourage that.

Anyway I hope you find it interesting, challenging and [for want of a much, much, much better word] educational … and with abit of luck, you won’t feel Russell has basically put you in the hands of the Devil, ha!

satan_saddam

Whilst I am sure you all have tons and tons and tons of blogs you look at, can I encourage you to go and check out some of the wonderful rants/observations/mutterings of people who really run this blog  … Fred / Hari / Lauren / Age / Mr M / NP / Charles / Will.

As much as it pains me to admit, they are funnier, nicer, more intelligent and more interesting than I ever could be though I apologise for their foul language. [Especially the commenters with no blog, ie: Marcus, Andy and Billy]

One Letter // Y Last But Not Least …

Finally, to ensure you don’t mistake my attitude for flippancy, I have written a rather long post covering one of the issues I believe stops many people from achieving the success they deserve – Presentaphobia

Hope you find it more useful than the rest of the rubbish on this blog!

Can’t wait to meet you all very soon … have fun!



When Confidence Hides … Presentaphobia!
April 26, 2007, 7:30 am
Filed under: Comment

zipper_mouth_piercing_1

I am lucky because I am naturally a mouthy, opinionated, loud bastard who enjoys presenting, leading and expressing my point of view.

However I appreciate there are a lot of people out there who find the thought of speaking/presenting in public, one of the scariest things possible.

My mother has often said she would literally die if she had to make a speech in public and she is not alone in that feeling.

The trouble is, fear often manifests itself as ‘keeping deathly quiet’ in meetings – which outsiders can interpret as either being you ‘don’t care’ what’s going on or are ‘worthless’ to their business.  Which is [quite often, ha!] not the case at all.

So how do you get over it?

Well it depends on what you feel is behind the issue … however I thought I’d write about a couple of methods I’ve used to help others get past this bump. [A ‘bump’ that can stop you progressing as far as you should or deserve]

In my [limited] experience, there are 2 key reasons which stop people having the confidence to ‘speak out’ …

Fear of looking stupid

Subliminal intimidation

… and quite often these 2 things are inherently linked.

Do you relate to any of these scenarios?

Scenario 1

You are in a meeting with a bunch of people you regard as bloody geniuses. Immediately you evaluate your own capabilities [or knowledge of a particular area] against there’s and decide you are ‘very poor’.  With this in mind, you spend the whole meeting as quiet as a Church mouse in order to protect yourself from the pre-determined conclusion, that you will look a fool.

Scenario 2

You are in a meeting, again with a bunch of people you regard as clever and knowledgeable about a particular area. You have a question but you are so nervous that you spend ages going over it in your head trying to second-guess whether it is indeed stupid. By the time you come to the decision it is valid, the opportunity has either gone or someone else has asked the question.

Scenario 3

You find yourself surrounded by a bunch of people who all seem to know eachother very, very well. Everyone, except you, seems to share the same viewpoint but you keep quiet because you don’t want to look foolish and think you must be wrong because otherwise someone else would have said something.

Scenario 4

You have the opportunity to present to a bunch of people who are renowned for being ‘tough’. You think of how they could react to what you say and decide its better to let someone else take over.

Any of those ring a bell?

Well if they do, I’d like to offer some little words of advice that I hope – in some way – may help you get over the bump.

 That’s confidence!

Scenario 1

People like being asked questions about them and their thoughts.

So when you have a question to ask, start off with things like, “In your experience, have you ever found …  “ OR “With your knowledge in this field, do you think we could ever see a time where XXX is possible/feasible?” OR “In your opinion, what do you think are the factors behind XXX success or failure?”  

Not only will they feel you are interested in their chosen area of expertise, but the question is inquisitive in nature – rather than making a pragmatic statement – which immediately is less confrontational and more conversational.

Another neat trick is to always relate a question back to something you are deeply familiar with.

I often talk about events involving my parents to to demonstrate a particular issue/feeling/attitude.

Not only does this help others understand/relate to the question you are asking, but you can speak with confidence and warmth because it is something you know is absolutely right.

Scenario 2

If you are scared of asking a question because you aren’t sure if it’s relevant or not – you have 3 choices …

[a] Ask the question and accept you’ll find out whether it is stupid or not almost immediately.

[b] Ask yourself if there is common sense behind your question – does it relate to the conversation / the category / the business / the task. If there is, ask it [it can’t be wrong as there’s sense behind it] and if there isn’t then …

[c] Write down what you want to say, relook at it later, see if you can phrase it in a way that has ‘common sense’ inherent within it and then ask it at a later date/via email.

However one word of advice, when you ask a question … especially if it is a counter-point of view to what else has been said … make sure you phrase it in a non-aggressive way.

No one likes to be told they are wrong or stupid or less informed … so pre-phrase your question with things like, “That’s really interesting, I must admit I have a slightly different experience/viewpoint/opinion … ” it’ll make things calmer, cooler and more free-flowing.

I should point out I am HORRENDOUS at this because I tend to ask people who have said something I disagree with to “Back that up with facts” or “Explain how you came to that conclusion” … but no one wants another me, so stick with the ‘passive aggressive’ method, you’ll get much further, ha!

Scenario 3

This can be very, very daunting … but again … if you have a different point of view the best way to handle it is think of examples that back up your opinion then speak.

The beauty of having examples to back it up is that you are not ‘naked’ and so people cannot accuse you of being totally wrong. Or they shouldn’t unless they’re fuckwits.

I have a simple belief that it is very, very, very hard to be totally wrong in advertising. There are literally tons and tons and tons of RIGHT ways to approach a task – and ultimately the issue is to identify which you feel is the best one to achieve the clients goals interms of money / consumer loyalty / competitive activity etc etc.

And you know what … people who’ve been doing it for years can continually fuck-up.

It happens … we try to not make it happen, but it does … because life is in a constant state of flux and attitudes change – often from day-to-day.

As long as you approach things with the right attitude, put in the hard work, look at issues outside of just your core discipline [distribution / competitive development / cultural changes / media influence], then no one can blame you if the World zigs when you zagged.

Not only that, but it’s never just down to YOU … if it was, you should be getting paid millions … there are many people that make any ‘output’ happen so embrace them, talk to them and work together to achieve the goal.

Scenario 4

One of my old bosses said to me … “Remember they are just human beings too. Be yourself – don’t be who you think they want you to be – and if truly scared, just imagine them sat on the toilet, naked, and as constipated as hell”

Actually this ‘be yourself’ is a big one.

I’ve had many people who are wonderful and warm with friends, then turn into either boring, meek or arrogant individuals when in a business situation.

Of course this is a byproduct of their fear, but personality and charisma is what separates us from the next person – so the fact certain people can quote Business Week magazine or use words like ‘synergise’ doesn’t mean shit – infact my view is that rather than forming a bond between client and individual, it is possibly creating a more competitive atmosphere.

Audience

Look I am not saying these are all the answers to the problems of public speaking/presenting … and I am sure there are many other far more professional ways to get over these humps [which probably doesn’t include – as I’m about to do for some of my mob – sending people to ‘acting class’ so they can be more animated and confident in meetings and presentations] … but you need to know you can get over them and you should get over them so if anyone else has any ideas or problems, drop me a line and lets see what we can do to make it abit better for all of us.

If this has been of no use or purely self-indulgent … sorry, my heart was in the right place on this, but I appreciate I can go on and on and on.



Hell On Earth …
April 25, 2007, 8:47 am
Filed under: Comment

This photo is of a marketing department in Asia. 

Inspiring isn’t it.  You can just tell the employee’s imagination will be running wild sitting there everyday, can’t you!

Jesus … talk about depressing – even the ceiling seems low!

Russell wrote about the issue of ‘office space’ a while back … and even I had the odd rant about it [surprise, surprise] … but I still think this issue is in need of debate because in these days of corporate penny-pinching, it amazes me that companies expect high morale and output when they basically treat and locate their staff in surroundings best descibed as ‘battery chicken homes’.

Of course I understand rent is a massive cost for business, so I appreciate their need to maximise their ‘space’ … but to cram hundreds of people in an area of souless blandom seems to be rather shortsighted – especially when those people are tasked with finding ways to capture the imagination of the public.

Please know I am not saying organisations should only look after their marketing departments and screw everyone else … nor am I advocating they give everyone acres of personal space including their own fridge, sofa and swimming pool [though cynic does have a bedroom in their NY office – a place where people can literally pop in and have a ‘snooze’] and I’m certainly not suggesting companies spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on mad stuff like building a slide that runs all the way through the office [like Leo Burnett Sydney did – which was always about generating agency PR than being beneficial to their staff] … however I do believe a company has a moral duty to create a physical environment that is enjoyable, productive and inspiring for all its employees … not just because it creates a happier, more productive atmosphere [which leads to better and higher levels of ‘output’] but because a company already pushes staff to spend way more time working than they should/get paid for  – so the least they can do is try and make the place as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. [And I won’t buy the argument that a crappy environment means they are encouraging their staff to go home and ‘have a life’]

And as bad as alot of Asian companies can be … the US has moments of absolute mentalness!

The place is so fucking politically correct and union governed, that you can’t even move your pen without getting written authorisation. 

But hey … that’s more about business practice than business physical environments, so I’ll leave that rant for another day. 

Anyway, because I am an inquisitive bugger, I would love to know what you think would make life in your current environment better [and no, on-tap drugs/booze/prostitutes do not count] so if you can be bothered – I can appreciate you probably can’t – drop me a line by clicking here.

Oh, and talking of hell … here’s Jill’s version of it – fixing a hole in my jeans like the good lil’ lady she is.

[I am soooo dead for saying that! Sorry hon!]



Gareth From The Office Lives With Me …
April 25, 2007, 8:43 am
Filed under: Comment

She’s at it again

And before you say it Andy … I don’t know why she sticks with me. Mind you, with comments like these, I don’t know why I stick with her either, ha!

[I should point out this is showing Jill in a very negative light – she is very smart – it’s just at night when she’s tired, she starts spouting rubbish and I love her for it!]



Suddenly Playing Darts Seems Fun …
April 24, 2007, 8:41 am
Filed under: Comment

This genius is by UK artist Miles Donovan … all he has to do is an Oprah one next , and I’ll be officially his biggest fan.

Is it sacrilege to slag off Saints?

Yes it probably is except Bono and Oprah are NOT Saints – they are just very successful individuals who … having achieved fame and immense wealth … have taken on some of the critical issues facing millions of people around the World.

Of course that is to be applauded, but what they are doing seems to have alot of their ‘ego’ wrapped up in it all – and when you remember Paul Newman [the originator of using ‘fame’ to deliver charitable donations] has raised more money – without the need for global self-serving publicity – than both these ‘icons’ COMBINED [through the profits of his Pasta Sauce company] then you start to understand why Bono’s face appears on a dart board and Newman’s doesn’t.

According to various media reports [which I appreciate are not the best source for ‘facts’], RED – Bono’s AIDS idea – has raised approx US$18 million after spending [with associated companies] about $100 million in publicity/advertising. In that time, Bono and his associated companies has earnt close to US$38 million.

Sure it is great he is trying to do something … sure at the heart of RED is a good idea … but who is going to benefit the most longterm?

Of course we should applaud the efforts of people like Bono and Oprah, but treat them like Saints?  Don’t make me laugh …



Sometimes, Small Things Matter Most.
April 23, 2007, 7:31 pm
Filed under: Comment

Inkeeping with my fast-approaching midlife crisis [ha] … I bought some Converse shoes at the weekend [in camouflage of course!] and the thing I really loved was that on the side of the box, were a couple of the lace-hole ringlets that are inherent in all Converse shoe designs.

I know it’s a little thing, but it’s a little thing that reinforces the brand – which ultimately makes you feel you are buying something abit special, something that has been made with care, attention and passion, something worth paying a ‘little bit more’ for.

Of course treating packaging as a marketing device is nothing new … but given this is on a pair of relatively cheap sneakers, you have to question why some of the bigger – supposedly more aspirational brands – don’t do it.

It’s not hard … it’s just about an appreciation of what your brand is, both to the company and to the consumer … but I guess this goes back to the point that too many marketing departments are filled with underqualified people and/or too focused on the bigger things [the stuff they can show off about] even though it’s the miniscule things that can make all the difference. At least to the consumer.

Something that is interesting is that Singapore Airlines have just awarded [after 30 odd years with BATEY] their whole advertising business to TBWA – even though the team that handled the pitch actually work for the below-the-line division, Tequila.

I think this is brilliant … not just because Tequila are a fantastic agency who are doing some of the best work around Asia at the moment [and I include ATL agencies in that declaration] … but because it implies Singapore Airlines want an agency who will pay attention to the small things as well as the big – which might give above-the-line agencies a much needed kick-up-the-arse … because for all their talk about being media neutral and 360 thinkers, the reality is they tend to focus the most energy on the ‘television spot’.

Well done Converse … well done Singapore Airlines … well done Tequila!



Take Over The Music World From Your Bedroom!
April 23, 2007, 8:34 am
Filed under: Comment

Talking of music … at the weekend I bought a BOSS BR professional recording studio system.

Now this might not mean much to you lot, but apart from the fact it only cost $400 [about 100 quid] … is lighter than an iPOD and just abit bigger than one too … this system allows me to record digitally upto 36 different tracks [ie: instruments], speed up/slow down/change notes/sections that aren’t quite right, mix them together using the onboard mass of digital effects and rhythm tracks and then master them into a top-notch, 5.1 sound, CD ready piece of music.

 

What you have to realise is that this little piece of electronic genius is top studio quality … and with some ‘real-world’ studios [like the Manor in Oxfordshire] charging upto a THOUSAND POUNDS AN HOUR … this is making quality recording a reality for the millions of bedroom musicians located all around the World.

[Not to mention some of the pro’s who don’t want to record 8 trillion instruments on every song they write. No use to Queen and Muse then …]

Given the internet already is undermining much of the record companies distribution stronghold … we can now safely say we are entering the age of music socialism, so it’s no wonder Mr Epic Records is so highly strung!