Archive for the ‘Clients’ Category

What’s in a name?

In Clients, Lateral Thinkers on September 4, 2011 at 8:37 am

I’m sure that Willy S wasn’t the first person to wrestle with that particular question, but it was he who immortalised it in his tragic love story to beat all love stories. Just to reprise the scene: Juliet Capulet is on the balcony, having that evening first clapped eyes on Romeo Montague down in the church hall. She’s pretty taken by him, he’s gobsmacked by her, having whimpered She doth teach the torches to burn bright and Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear. (Franco Zefferelli does this love-at-first-sight scene particularly well in his 1968 film. I challenge you to look at Olivia Hussey and not melt.)

At the end of the dance, Juliet discovers to her horror that Romeo is actually the son of her family’s deadliest enemy My only love sprung from my only hate. Too early seen unknown, and known too late. Prokoviev captures this rivalry majestically in his Capulets and Montagues, written in the 1930s. How he would feel about it being used as the theme music for BBC’s The Apprentice is anyone’s guess.

So we find Juliet on the balcony bemoaning her fate. O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou, Romeo? Why are you a Montague? Deny thy father and refuse thy name. (Those of you who have been brought up on too many Morecambe and Wise Christmas Specials with little Ern dressed as Juliet and Eric as Romeo might need to reach for the dictionary here and check out what ‘wherefore’ actually means.)

Which brings us nicely back to the title of our blog post. Would that which we call a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Of course, it would. And Romeo may not have met his untimely demise if his surname had been Smith (the Italian equivalent of which annoyingly is Ferrari, which could confuse my argument unnecessarily so I’ll stick to Smith. Or maybe I should have picked Jones in the first place?).

I’m wearing a rose in my lapel today because I’m trying to get in the zone. I’m frequently asked to dream up names for companies and products, most of which aren’t particularly fragrant. They need something to lift them from the unseemly mire that is today’s competitive marketplace. Some are easier than others. The one I’m currently wrestling with is for a virtual laxative.

How does Mind Over Matter sound?


How to announce a pitch win

In Clients, Pitching, Small Man, Big Ideas on August 12, 2011 at 1:40 pm

I’ve had the workmen in today doing a bit of wiring and installation. Not just in my office, but throughout the building. I’m sitting behind my desk listening to the end result now. At the press of a button, I can fill the agency with the music of my choice. It’s a little like Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption when he shares Mozart over the tannoy with his fellow inmates. Actually, I gave that duet from The Marriage of Figaro a blast a few minutes ago and it was gratifying to stand at my door and watch the appreciative faces of my employees as they realised its significance.

What’s triggered this initiative, I hear you ask? Several things, the chief of which has been the run of pitch victories that I’ve been leading our troops to in the last few months. Picture the scene. Having delivered the mother of all presentations to a potential client a few days previously, the whole agency is sitting on their potties waiting to hear the result. I get frequent visits to my door accompanied by worried facial expressions that say ‘Have you heard anything yet?’ The wait is hard for them and harder for me. I’m the one who takes the call from the client. It matters not that we have a superb track record and win far more pitches than we ever lose. No two pitches are the same. And who knows to what depths our desperate competitors will stoop to try and beat us.

So back to those potties that Araminta, Bunty and Kristi are perched on. What better way to announce to the agency that the call has come through and that victory’s in the bag than to blast Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus throughout the building! It beats white smoke rising from the Vatican. But then, announcing a new Pope doesn’t come close to awarding the global advertising account for baked beans, does it?

My client’s a donkey. Or is that an ass?

In Clients, Wannabe CEO on April 6, 2011 at 10:01 am

The book you see above has been in the press a lot recently. It was written by one of the brothers of that annoyingly successful Foer family. Joshua Foer is a researcher and journalist but also US Memory Champion 2006. He and I employ the same remarkable technique. No need to argue here about who got there first. That would be petty. Suffice to say, I’ve been far too busy to write a book.

Back to the technique. What and why? Well, how many times each week are you introduced to a new client? If you run an agency the size of mine, the answer is plenty. They all want to meet the top man. Some of these guys are the salt of the earth, but others are a complete nightmare who swear by the first rule of Account Handling which I’ll summarise for you here. The client pays the bills, you bite the pillow.

They expect you to hang on their every word and remember every snippet that they’ve ever imparted to you. Regular readers of this blog will know by now that I’m a small man who’s been blessed with a big brain. But just because it’s big doesn’t mean it behaves itself. Quite the opposite. Just yesterday I was standing in our boardroom in front of a new Marketing Director who had the air of sadist about him. While I should have been paying attention to polite details such as his name, what he was saying about the cab journey over to Knightsbridge and that his nonogenarian grandmother plays backgammon on the web, my brain was straining at the leash, wanting to jump around like a frog. To keep it under control, I deployed my technique. You should try it too. Joshua’s making a mint out of it.

I gave my client, let’s call him John Smith, a quick once over. He had bushy neck hairs, cavernous nostrils and large ears. So John Smith is a donkey. His company sells body depilation cream. (For the guys out there, that’s hair remover.) The donkey’s got silky-smooth legs. He kept hinting how much he loved lunching at Gordon Ramsay’s Petrus. The silky-smooth-legged donkey speaks with a Scottish accent and has got a nose bag. Would I send an all-staff email out promoting his wife’s interior design business? The silky-smooth-legged donkey with a Scottish accent now has a nosebag in deep fuchsia chenille. Could I have his daughter in on work placement? Her name’s Daisy, she was in a girl band and now wants a real job. The silky-smooth-legged donkey is now singing Tell me what you want, what you really really want in a Scottish accent while eating wild flowers out of a deep fuchsia nosebag.

Get the picture? One day I’ll introduce you to the rest of the menagerie.

A scary present

In Clients, Creative Directors on February 5, 2011 at 10:45 am

Helena, my super-efficient PA, came into my room yesterday with this on a silver platter. It had arrived by courier and I could tell by her face that she had only just taken off the wrapping paper. Now there are ups and downs to being my PA. And this experience was probably somewhere in the middle for her. I guess it started with a gasp-inducing down when she first clapped eyes on the skull followed by a sniggering up when she touched it and realised that it was made from chocolate, then a sinister down when she discovered that there was no card enclosed to indicate who the sender was followed by an up of solidarity with me when we looked at each other and knew instinctively that it takes more than a spooky skull to spook us two.

So why would someone send me a skull made out of chocolate? Are they saying that this skull is really a metaphor for my own mortality? That my life is all a bit too sweet and soft and could melt at a moment’s notice? Well, I’ve survived this long in the heat of the advertising kitchen, I doubt I’m going to disintegrate now.

Sebastian, our Creative Director, is big into metaphors and most of the time his commercials are as enigmatic as this skull. They leave the viewer perplexed. You need a degree in semiotics to work them out. I doubt that he sent it as he tends to ignore me most of the time.

I’ve told Helena to expect the rest of the skeleton to arrive over the coming weeks and for Detective Parnaby to solve the mystery. Between you and me, I’m betting that it’s from the Marketing Director at Cadbury. That gorilla ad was superb, but the two kids and their silly eyebrows were a complete bore.

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The Art of the Pitch. Lesson 1

In Clients, Pitching on January 20, 2011 at 11:40 am

I don’t suspect that many guys who eat marketing textbooks for breakfast also read this blog. It’s a bit too lateral for them. The few who do however are probably thinking, ‘Hey he’s started to speak our language. He’s called this post ‘The Art of the Pitch’ because he’s going to serve up some nuggets in the vein of Sun Tzu or Machiavelli.’ They’re thinking, ‘this is a post I want to read’ because they’ve sworn allegiance to those two authors, believing that taking their management philosophy from the works of a 6th century BC Chinaman or a 15th century Italian political philosopher is cool and nobody will notice that’s it’s really a substitute for having no worthwhile personal insights of their own.

Such marketeers are kings of jargon and herd thinking. They pepper their conversations with the latest buzz phrases such as ‘joined-up thinking’. They talk about competitors who also work in their ‘space’. Some even call themselves ‘Corpreneurs’ which apparently is a ‘Corporate Entrepreneur’ – a clear confession that they never had the courage to take that leap into the unknown themselves, but prefer to gamble with someone else’s money.

Back to my subject. These guys also make the worst clients. And you really don’t want to end up pitching to them. They’re just the type to look at a piece of creative work and mark it out of ten on five different key measures. This is marketing by formula. Instinct has no place in their armoury. So if you care about building a client list that will bring you happiness and satisfaction, avoid such people. When you go to the chemistry meeting (another classic!), ask to meet them in their office. Tell them it’s a huddle. They’ll love that. Once in, check out those bookshelves. Then their desk. Beware a Newton’s Cradle. Flinch at the ubiquitous Mont Blanc pen and pencil set in a leather case. Recoil at the cartoon of them on the wall that they got some poor sod at their last agency to draw.  But most of all listen to what they say. If they mention exploring the pitch brief at a more ‘granular level in a tissue meeting in two weeks time’, run straight out of the door.

Has advertising lost its soul?

In Clients on January 5, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Back when I first entered this noble profession, every other account man wore a bow-tie. It was a sign – a brand if you will – that he was proud to work in Soho, a walking advertisement for advertising. Funny tie, funny job, funny commercials. Funniness everywhere. The real song-and-dance men even sported versions that lit up and twirled round.

Where are they now, those jesters? Those happy-go-lucky souls who composed jingles in their heads while eating their cornflakes in the morning, the crunching providing the beat? Nigh on extinct I’d say.

What have we got now? Well, here’s a simple test. Imagine you were to walk into the boardroom of a big London agency tomorrow where a client meeting was taking place. Could you pick out the Admen? Fat chance. It’s all gone a bit Animal Farm, where the pigs start to look like the humans.

This isn’t what you signed up for. You don’t want to morph into clients. They’re meant to need us. We’re smarter than them, we’re wittier than them, we’re more flamboyant than them.

Go home now, rediscover your bounce and come back in tomorrow on a spacehopper.

The Perfect Client Brief

In Clients, Great Ads, Small Man, Big Ideas, Wannabe CEO on January 3, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Clients pay agencies to give them an outside view, otherwise they’d just do it themselves. That’s why I always demand a blank sheet of paper when clients brief me on a new campaign. Don’t give me pages of industry background, market research and competitor analysis. Quite frankly I don’t have the time to plod through it all. A quick chat’s all that’s needed. Too much information infects the brief with the known, the commonplace, the expected. Surely you can’t be serious, Jeremy? Oh yes. Deadly! I’ve been this brave for a long time now. Brave enough to look clients in the eye (difficult when you’re 5’4″) and tell them not to pollute the creative process with bland inside knowledge. Brave enough to tell clients that they too must be brave (it’s much easier when everyone’s being brave) and trust me to deliver. As I always do.

The best bit is watching their little faces light up when I return a couple of weeks later with the totally unexpected, but totally bang-on. That in a nutshell is why I’m in this business.