I normally like to moan about the advertising industry like Cassandra coming down off the finest crack cocaine while wandering around the charred remains of a favourite family pet.
But it behoves me sometimes to point out that the industry is not all doom and gloom.
(Although rumour has it that Doom and Gloom are planning to open an agency specialising in wearable technology just off Brick Lane.)
Recently I met three people who all seemed very happy with their lot.
The first was Mark Lund, who now runs an agency called Now.
In the old days of course, he ran an agency called In The Old Days.
You can find his new agency Here.
Within seconds of meeting Mark, you realise that you are in the presence of the ultimate pair of safe hands. He exudes all the decent qualities, in almost indecent quantities.
Eminently sane people like Mark are exactly what you need to front an agency. While the necessary lunacy is hopefully going on at the back of the agency, where the creatives – if they’re any bloody good – are thinking unthinkable thoughts and torturing the bounds of possibility until you don’t know your arse from Sheffield Wednesday.
The second was James Hilton of AKQA. James was sitting on a panel at the Guardian advertising conference and it was obvious from the first question directed at him that he wasn’t playing the same game as any of the other speakers. Most people accept a speaking gig at a conference in order to pimp their wares, and so they exude the false bonhomie of a snake oil salesman at a cocktail party full of disgruntled boa constrictors.
But James just answered the questions in a no-frills fashion, in a way that was about being straight rather than sell-y. It was all the more compelling for being so completely unapologetic.
And the third was Graham Thomas who I met at the CMI conference – where I myself had accepted a speaking gig to pimp Decoded at the assembled luminaries of British industry.
Graham runs something called The Disruption Factory and he practices what I’ve been preaching for ages – prototyping. This is the same topic I discussed with James at the Guardian conference. Creating stuff and just putting it out on the internet.
To my mind this solves the biggest problem facing creative agencies – the approval process.
It’s not an ideal way to test creative work – there will never be an ideal way to do that – but it’s a million times better than focus groups or relying on the subjectivity of people who are usually far too risk-averse.
James and Graham are both making prototyping work. I don’t know about Mark.
But from a straw poll of three happy bunnies, two of them were using it.
In fact let’s bring in a fourth happy bunny.
Jonny used to work as a copywriter at Albion and it was his coding skills which first led me to think about all that. He’s now at Wieden+Kennedy, and we had a great time talking about prototyping and other topics.
Most of the people I meet in adland are pretty pissed off, more like bunnies who’ve been told that mixamatosis and chips is all that’s left on the menu.
So it’s worth thinking about this.
When you consider that 90% of new product launches fail and they all use conventional research, it doesn’t look like a great way to operate.
But 75% of all happy bunnies who expressed a preference said they used prototyping.
(And, coincidentally, it also built the biggest companies in the world.)
If you want to know more about prototyping, you could do a lot worse than come on the Decoded course where you’ll learn the basics of coding in just one day.
If you do, maybe I can turn down some of these endless invitations for speaking gigs at conferences.
Which might make me a slightly happier bunny myself.