Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

Advertising, it’s a dog’s life.

In Wannabe CEO on July 22, 2011 at 9:29 am

Our family dog used to look just like the picture above. A faithful border collie. My father got it from the farm down the road in leafy Buckinghamshire where I was brought up. He asked us children to come up with a name. I can’t remember what my three older sisters suggested (other than that their efforts were soppy nonsense) but I know I felt very proud when my proposal of Glen won through. It summed up the dog’s natural habitat with a bit of country-and-western singer thrown in.

I’ve never forgotten my Glen experience and I want to share with you now two truths about the advertising business that I can trace back to that dog. First of all, naming Glen (it was sadly one of the few things that I ever did right in the eyes of my father) gave me confidence to pursue my dream from an early age. I used to sit in front of our television set transfixed by the advertisements. I wanted to make those funny commercials. Somebody was doing it. Why couldn’t it be me? I’d named a dog. I could name a dog food. I could write a TV ad to persuade dog owners the length and breadth of the country to eat my dog food. I held onto that dream like Glen used to hold onto my mother’s slipper. Neither of us would let go. And look where that tenacity has got me. Wannabe advertising CEOs, you crave the top job? Have you identified your Glen moment that shows you’ve got what it takes to occupy the big seat? Have you got the drive to see it through? Are you gripping that pink fluffy slipper with tightly clenched teeth? Nothing less will do.

Back to my father and dog insight number two. He always wanted me to become a lawyer and angrily dismissed my assertion that it was him picking Glen that set me off down that slippery slope to Soho. He was no fool though. When I confessed that I was joining an ad agency, he told me that, apart from embarking on a career of utter superfluity, my tenure would be measured in dog years. Whereas a top barrister could continue well into his sixties, perhaps sharpening his technique and persuasive powers as he grew in experience and renown, the showy adman would be burnt out by the time he’s forty, devoid of fresh ideas and wallowing in his new-found sense of purposelessness.

Now that I’m in my forties, I don’t quite cut the forlorn figure described above although the pressure doesn’t get any easier. But who wants to work till they’re sixty anyway? The canine moral of this story is: if you’re going to make it in advertising, make it quick and make it big like I have. Then get out. Early retirement to write one’s memoirs in Provence is a lot better than being shipped off to Battersea Dogs Home.


The Twist is in the Tail

In Lateral Thinkers, Objects of Desire, Wannabe CEO on July 17, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Look what Monsieur Le Facteur brought yours truly yesterday! Cute, isn’t it. It amazes me how these big companies find me, especially when I’m in my retreat in Provence. I suppose that’s what good PAs are for though. To keep the goodies coming. Helena sifts through the endorsement requests and only lets those which she knows will tickle me filter through. This one did tickle me quite a bit, especially once I’d opened the box and taken all the little mice out and examined their little tails.

Now I have to be careful here. Although they are computer mice, not all of them have a mouse tail. One is a fish, another a piggy, another a pony and so on. Get the picture?

The Japanese company that developed them tells me that, when I want to transport my mouse, I should plug its USB tail back into its body and pop it into my pocket as if I’m taking a pet for a walk. Then when I get to work, I should plug the tail into my computer so that it looks as though there’s a little animal hiding in there. 

The lesson from this post to all you ad folk and wannabe lateral thinkers out there: don’t forget to be playful (a word that has been buzzing in creative circles as long as I can remember). Before you embark on your next project, ask yourself, will it make people smile? There’s no point in dreaming up a world-beater if it’s just going to send people to sleep. Make sure you’ve discovered the curly little tail that’s capable of wagging your big idea. Where would Levis be in a sea of denim without their button-up fly. Or Rice Krispies without their Snap, Crackle and Pop? Because when it comes to creativity, it’s the small things (like me) that make all the difference.

La Maison Jaune

In Chez Jeremy, Wannabe CEO on July 10, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Sometimes I feel that I just have to write. Over a century ago, looking at the same sky that I’m gazing at now, Van Gogh felt he just had to paint. It’s not surprising really. The light in Provence is so clear and the landscape so beautiful that one gets lost dans un petit morceau de paradis. (Now steady on, guys! That’s paradis with a small ‘p’. No one is getting lost in a piece of Vanessa except my good neighbour Johnny Depp. He lives a few kilometres down the road in Plan de la Tour. Quelle coincidence!)

This blogpost is coming to you from the roof terrace of my 1860s Provencal townhouse as I lose myself in the layers of countryside that stretch before me. Up here, Jeremy is in heaven and all is right with the world!

I call my house La Maison Jaune because that is indeed its colour. It’s got green shutters and a big oak front door too. Vince immortalised a different Yellow House down in Arles in the late 19th century by creating some of his most famous paintings there, including Sunflowers and the eponymous masterpiece above. He’d shacked up in south of France for an extended stay and was joined by Paul Gaugin for a couple of months, during which time he cut off his ear. Lesson 1: choose your housemates carefully!

Back to that urge I started this blogpost with. Like Van Gogh, I intend to immortalise Chez Parnaby with a few magna opera (that’s the plural of magnum opus, for those less linguistically gifted than yours truly). You see, Vince and Jeremy are just different sides of the same coin. We’re both prepared to put in the miles in search of perfection. (Although, I actually travelled further. He only came down from Paris. I came all the way from London.) Lesson 2: wannabe CEOs, never settle. Because if you do, you’ll find your competitors have hopped on the nearest plane to some exotic destination where they are dreaming up clever ways of pinching your clients.

So go out and find your Maison Jaune. It may be a mountain, a basement bar or a piece of inner city wasteland. Frequent it and create. Just don’t come down here. The last thing we need is a bunch of tourists.