Tag Archives: Albion

Breakfast wake-up call

Mobiles used to be  those things that mesmerised babies lying in their cots, although frequently leaving them with a puzzled frown on their face.

Now they’re those things which mesmerise half the world’s population for most of their waking life, although frequently blah blah blah.

In our industry, people have been rabbiting on about Mobile for ever. Or for the last 4 years anyway, which is pretty much the same thing.  Mobile is the new internet. Mobile is the new Simon Cowell. Mobile is the new Croque Monsieur.

Well, a breakfast at Patisserie Valerie last Tuesday totally convinced me.

This was one of those Albion Society breakfasts I’ve blogged about before. In this case the title was “The Revolution Will Be Mobilised” -  which I love.

Simon Andrews kicked it off, at a blistering pace and with a blizzard of statistics.

At the time of the dotcom bubble, there were 350 million people online. There are currently 400 million people with smart phones.

In February of this year, smartphones outsold PCs.

This isn’t coming – this has already come and then rolled over and fallen asleep.

Simon’s view is that very soon fixed-access internet will seem as strange as fixed phone-lines now look.

I.e. You’ll see it on repeats of old TV programmes, and in your granny’s house – but nowhere else.

It was interesting when he talked about how there is still such resistance to this – the ad industry put more money into cinema ads last year than they did into mobile advertising.

I never cease to be amazed at how resistant this industry is.

I’d like to think that agencies’ reluctance to dive in has been influenced by the still unresolved issues of health concerns relating to mobile. But then again I’d like to think that I look as good all the time as when I suck my stomach in, and that just isn’t true.

The fact is that the ad industry advertised cigarettes long after conclusive medical evidence of their harmfulness and also put ads into The Jeremy Kyle Show long after it had been proved to destroy brain cells.

Raam Thakrar spoke next about how to make money out of all this – there, you really wish you’d gone now, don’t you ?

Clive Dickens of Absolute Radio was up after him, and he also demonstrated how  clients can be several life-times ahead of the average ad agency employee. The brand’s commitment to mobile is awesome, (65% listening via digital platforms vs an industry average of 25%) including some hugely innovative  iAd executions.

As he said, you’ve got to “go where your audience are”.

As Simon had said earlier, this is quite different from going where the average ad agency’s skill sets currently reside.

How many ad agencies could talk helpfully to their clients about how to use mobile ?

(Answers via a sister company, please.)

One bit I loved from Clive’s talk was when he attacked the old-fashioned metrics which the ad industry still uses. Barb, Rajar, etc.

As he said – Google doesn’t estimate anything. Google knows.

And finally Mark Curtis talked very seductively about his online flirting business Flirtomatic. (Sometimes you just KNOW you’re in the wrong business -  but it can be rough to have your nose rubbed in that fact quite so firmly).  And then he  left us with a creative provocation.

Mobile, he said, is the first medium to really push beyond its own frame.

All media try to do this – it’s part of being creative. But mobile is doing stuff with GPS and Augmented Reality which is genuinely mind-f*cking.

It’s buckling the frame out of all recognition and putting it out on the street for the council to pick up.

We are on the brink of a revolution. To quote Wordsworth, Bliss was it that dawn to be alive, but to hear all about it while munching a croissant from Patisserie Valerie was very heaven.

Read more on Breakfast wake-up call…

Naughtie and Nice

 I enjoyed hearing about James Naughtie’s slip of the tongue while addressing Jeremy Hunt on the Today show.

On a similar note, when Clare Balding was called “the dxxx on the bike” by AA Gill, she retorted that she was looking forward to seeing a picture of him in a punt.

It reminds me of the two websites that flourished for a while for adfolk to vent their spleen on – theagencyisac*nt.com and theclientisac*nt.com

Now if I’ve learned one thing in my many years in advertising, it’s not to call your client a c*nt.

(Perfectly acceptable with the culture secretary, though.)

In fact at HHCL I even banned the word “client” and insisted we called them by their first names.

Because you don’t get anywhere without clients.

But it’s not just a question of being nice to the person who pays the bills.

Because these days, more than ever, they’re the people who make the decisions.

And it’s also bloody hard work being a client. A friend of mine who was a suit at HHCL and then went client-side for a bit, described it as being like a POW hiding in the bushes outside Stalag 15. You try to keep your head down as low as you can, dreading the searchlight finding you out.

Because a marketing director is liable to be button-holed by his CFO at any time and asked “We’ve given you x million pounds for marketing this year – what return are we getting for that ?”

And since ROI is notoriously difficult to prove for marketing, most marketing directors lead lives of quiet desperation and anxiety.

It’s well known that the average tenure in the job is about 18 months – similar to a football manager, a first world war pilot, or the Innocent account. What’s less well known is that it seems a lot longer, what with all the time spent hiding in stationery cupboards or ringing up “with a bad cough”.

I was speaking to a client in the financial sector recently, who said that he spent 20% of his time justifying his expenditure to his colleagues.

Imagine a relationship in which you had to spend 20% of your time justifying your existence.

Well, we’ve probably all been in relationships like that, especially if you’re a man.

But actually, I think this sense of client-side insecurity is the main reason for the rise of Procurement and cost-control.

If you can’t prove you’re doing a good job to your boss, you can at least point out that someone else is doing a worse one.

“We may not be able to prove the ROI on our marketing, but we’ve skinned the agency alive”.

And removed any chance of them having any hint of fun, ever again.

In my view, most agencies are actually honest and well-run financially. They’ve been stripped to the bone and they’ve got procurement people all over them, like Ant is all over Dec.

But the relationship between client and agency is always going to be tricky, until we can prove that marketing works.

At the minute, it’s a bit like paying someone to go into the loft and bang a hammer for half a day – who knows if they’ve done anything valuable or not ?

Overall, as has been said on many occasions, clients get the work they deserve, and agencies get the clients they deserve.

So my mates at Albion are probably sending out bottles of champagne to all their clients, after their recent short-listing in Campaign’s Digital Agency of the Year award.

Fully deserved and, if you read the article, Albion comes out as being even more future-focussed than the other two agencies in the running, AKQA and Dare.

Modesty forbids me from mentioning my own role in this success.

That, plus the sheer actual tininess of my contribution.

But well done, guys.

Since I don’t drink alcohol myself these days, I’m going to celebrate with a short YouTube clip.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YS5mVoqJpUk&feature=youtube_gdata_player

And a reference to the brilliant home-clubber strip in Saturday’s Guardian. According to the guy with the huge tashe in the strip, “they’ve managed to book James Naughtie to open this year’s Huntingdon Christmas Truffle Hunt”.

Read more on Naughtie and Nice…

Teenage kicks

 

There are bits of my portfolio life which I obviously can’t talk about. For instance, the time when I helped Sir Martin Sorrell structure a complex 10-year reverse buy-out of a research facility in Pyongyang. (As it happened, it was just someone’s front room).

It’s a shame really, because some of the most interesting projects are out of bounds. In the TV world, I once advised Simon Cowell to start a TV show in which he just laughed at some mentally deficient people, but I don’t know if he followed my advice.

But there are bits I can talk about. Like the breakfast hosted by Albion last Thursday to discuss Gen Y and ask the question – “Is this the end of youthful rebellion ?”

Jesus, I f*cking hope not. Is there nothing worth fighting against these days ?

That just makes me so angry.

It reminds me of when Adam Lury, the greatest planner who ever lived, used to say that there was no point in doing research groups in Birmingham. He said the people there never hated or loved anything, they just went “yea well it’s allright, innit” about everything you put in front of them.

I hoped the same wasn’t true of Gen Y.

The morning started brilliantly when we met Eliza Robeiro – a spectacularly self-possessed and eloquent 17-year-old. She talked about fighting knife crime – something she set up a charity organisation to deal with, at age 13. Get that. This young woman was doing something amazing to change the world for the better, at an age when the rest of us were just figuring out why sex was going to dominate our lives for the next 60 years …

We met Robin Klein, a serial entrepreneur, who works with a lot of Gen-Y-ers. Robin claimed to be from Gen X – but I reckon that like me he scrapes into the bottom of the “Baby Boomer” group. And while I’m not normally a fan of bottom-scraping, I do think Boomer is better than X; the Boomers changed stuff and set agendas. Sure they screwed up massively, on a global scale, in a way which has probably f*cked the planet for ever – but hey, anyone can make a mistake. And unlike Gen X, they weren’t content just to get the mortgage paid and buy too many iPods.

We met Emi Gal, an immensely impressive 23-year-old winner of this year’s Seedcamp, something which Albion takes a key interest in.

He talked about his attitude to failure. He told us of one company he’d set up which “went successfully bankrupt” – a good joke which the VC guy then picked up and said was absolutely crucial. Gen Y doesn’t mind failing. In “the Valley” apparently, they say – Fail fast, fail often.

We met Mike Butcher, editor of Techcrunch, who told us the now familiar provocation that Facebook is “the people you used to know” and Twitter is “the people you want to know in the future”. I always want to add – “and Linked-in is the unemployed people you wish you didn’t know”.

He also told us that journalists need to “get off the stage and into the crowd”.

Sadly he didn’t take his own advice, since it would have been great if he’d mingled among us. We could have patted him on the back and offered him a sticky bun.

If I had to sum up Gen Y, I’d say that they are massively into collaboration and doing stuff without waiting for permission.

They’re also into failing.

I like that a lot. Experimenting without having the paralyzing fear of failure is at the heart of all true creativity.

But for me the most poky thought came from Robin, the guy with the grey hair.

He said he was always looking for the next disruption. That nothing was interesting unless it disrupted the market. This is a guy who invests money in exactly that attitude and makes a fortune doing it.

That’s a belief I’d like to see a lot more of in Gen Y.

Not just wanting to make money for its own sake – I hope they’re smart enough to get beyond that.

But the idea that you have to be willing to upset the applecart.

More than that, actually. You have to be actively looking for applecarts to tip over.

Which is another way of saying what Marlon Brando said in that old film  when someone asked him “What are you rebelling against ?”

And he replied “What have you got ?”

Read more on Teenage kicks…

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