Friday, October 31, 2008

Chapter 11 “The Pioneer is the one with the arrows sticking out of his ass”

This is why you never want to lead, why you always want to follow. Why it is in fact better to watch someone else launch a new product first. I mean, what if it fails. “Spit on first mover advantage”. Sit back, wait to see if there is actually a market for that thing. Then just before your boss comes looking for you to find out why you have let the competition gain the advantage, you simply steal their idea, launch a competing product that leverages their immense investment in brand building and watch not only your sales but your profit margin shoot through the roof. You may never be number one, but you won’t have any holes in your butt either.

Chapter 10 “We need to plan the plan so that we have a strategic plan”

The fun part of any meeting is actually feeling all the hot air that escapes from the vastly more intelligent and superior people than you who feel they simply have to make a statement or must contribute to the meeting. Usually the whole thing devolves into a series of contradictory statements and filled-up flip charts (wish I had the franchise for markers). And the more stressful the situation, the less the humour...the more the charts look like unintelligible The inevitable outcome is that the meeting must end with an action plan that everyone nodds and says yes they will support. But immediately after the meeting adjourns, if you listen really carefully you will inevitably hear the muttering, “Not a snowballs chance in hell that I am going to support that crazy plan…but this binder will take up some space on my shelf”

Chapter 9 “We need to keep our options open…but we need to decide right now”

Close cousin to “Hurry up and wait”. Usually uttered by sales types. After endless hours of listening to the drone of the ‘challenges’ that need to be overcome. Of course the best thing about a large organization is that you never actually have to make a decision. In fact, it is best never to actually have to make a decision. And if you can get away with it, to never put yourself into any position where you may have to make a decision. Decision makers don’t get rewarded…they get more work.
The real reason though is that individuals don’t actually matter in an organization. The team, ah, the team. That is the answer. To ensure that all the options are kept open, and look brilliant in the process, suggest this as the ultimate answer to making the decision.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Chapter 8 “Big dog in the house”

This is in fact the only effective way to actually get something approved. Have the most senior client at the table to make the final decision. And yet it is not with its hurdles. First of all, your client is likely three rungs down the hierarchy. He gave you the original brief which of course has been massaged beyond any hope of actually being able to deliver any creative that will actually engage the target customer. The big dog of course never actually read the brief: he will know great creative when he sees it. And this is not to be your day.

Second, if the big dog client is at the table, rest assured that the big dog agency guy is going to be there as well. And since he has some many years of experience and gobs of knowledge, he actually doesn’t need to review the brief either. Yes, yes, he will know great creative when he too sees it.

A flash streaks through your mind: why don’t we let the two big dogs just meet over lunch and decide what they want to do. While this is what will eventually happen, it is unfortunately necessary to go through the charade of actually believing that any of the underlings actually have a pov that anyone wants to listen to.

Chapter 7 “Stuck on a wet leaf”

Generally referred to as not having enough traction or power to get out of a fairly simple situation. Automotive industry cliché. In the days of 200 horsepower economy cars, one can never have enough horsepower. (sic). Lost on all: huge, oversize vehicles bearing not the slightest resemblance to their functionality driven in cities by small people with big egos need more power. Where are we racing to?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Chapter 6 “Swim like a boat anchor”

The result of taking it at both ends.

Unfortunately the ultimate result of not being able to successfully read the minds of all the crazies that are attracted to advertising and marketing in the first place is to either quietly go crazy yourself, or learn how to hold your breath for a very long time. And for all the “we are all one team” rhetoric spouted by your company, the reality is that they are looking for a scapegoat. Someone who will be shoved off the gangplank in a big show of action. And even though you may think yourself a good swimmer, the real point is that you are not really expected to swim. In fact, it is a big disappointment should you actually rise to the surface. “Knife in the back” does not even begin to describe the pain you will now endure.

Chapter 5 “Taking it at both ends”

Every account person knows the meaning of this. First of all is the agency: no matter how hard you work, no matter the hours of ‘face time’ you put in, you can never please your boss, the creative guys, the media people. Then you take the work to the client for presentation. Yes, that great, award winning “if only they would let it run without revisions” creative that was conceived late one night in a desperate last-minute boozy haze of smoke that resembles nothing of the brief (instructions to revise the brief ringing in your ear) creative. And after the long setup of reviewing the strategy, the results of the research (pre-test) with its obligatory powerpoint charts that has put the client into an apparent slumber, the saviour-of-the world creative is finally revealed by the creative lead dressed up in his ripped jeans. To resounding…thud! If fortunate enough to actually have the client ‘like’ it, and only want you to ‘tweak’ a few things, you escape to the post-mortem meeting (bar) to commiserate, belly-ache and generally bitch about the stupid client. If the presentation actually goes badly, on to the blame game: creatives bitching at the account people for not getting the brief right. Account people leveling equal blame for not following the brief in the first place.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Chapter 4: "“That’s critical…that’s important”

Dictionary definition time. “Critical”: something that you cannot do without. “Important”: something that has great meaning. Conclusion: This is something that you cannot do without that has great meaning.

Chapter 3: 'Find a way to join the dots'

If only I had figured out before I got into all that debt to make it through university that all I had to do was join the dots. It does seem incredulous that highly educated and intelligent people will say that in a meeting. What dots? Do you need a special pen?

This statement is closely related to, “We have to find a way to grow sales”. Isn’t that what the business plan is supposed to do? That is supposed to tell us the way. Too bad we can never respond, “execute the business plan”

Friday, October 3, 2008

Chapter 2 “There are always two ways to fix a problem”

Finally, the answer that we have been waiting for. There is a right answer. In fact, there are two. Knowing that, you can shorten those moments of angst when your boss (client) has rejected all of your good ideas and you stare at the computer screen fruitlessly hoping that the answer will present itself. What of course is missing from this is the unsaid: there is a right way and a wrong way to fix a problem”. Getting it right leads to promotions, money, glory…oh sorry, this is advertising…more late nights, no more money absolutely no glory. Getting it wrong is bad: passed over for the promotion, assigned a new account, or most horribly, asked to help out on new business pitches.

Chapter 1 - My thoughts are in parallel with yours

This was actually the original title of this book. I mean, can you think of a better comeback when someone (your boss) interrupts your “eyes wide open nap” while she was droning on with another powerpoint presentation featuring charts with coloured intersecting lines that are supposed to mean something. The way to deliver this one is to actually pause for a minute to allow you time to come out of your haze, raise your hand to your chin in a contemplative manner before finally delivering the line. And the best part is that this response is guaranteed to work every time. The downside however is that this is a one-time response. Once used, it can never be used with the same people again. But used strategically (another favourite over-used word that will covered later), it shows just how smart you really are.

Introduction - What I learned over 25 years in advertising

Did I become a better person? Did I save the world? No, and no. What I actually learned is that it is possible to survive in the world of advertising by writing down the mangled statements that clients use when they feel they need to use the latest cliché to make their point. Keeping track of these kept me from going completely crazy during what turned out to be one endless 25 year long meeting.

So I started to write them down. Called them “The list”. Sent them to friends and associates. Encouraged to publish them. I hope you enjoy

And no, I never did come to any startling conclusions about the value of advertising.