Archive for the ‘God Squad’ Category

Over here

In God Squad, Objects of Desire, Small Man, Big Shoes on February 16, 2011 at 7:10 am

One of the USA’s greatest sons is artist Jasper Johns, best known for his paintings of flags, like the masterpiece above. Those of you who know me will be aware that 20th century North American art is a passion of mine. I’ve spent many a delightful hour in Tate Modern or MOMA losing myself in Rothkos, Rauschenbergs, Pollocks and Twomblys. They invariably take my mind on an invigorating journey, encapsulating as they do such raw beauty.

But not everything that comes out of the USA has such a refreshing effect on yours truly – a visit from my Chairman being a prime example. Especially if he has his Global CFO in tow. When Helena, my super PA, informs me that the Chairman is gracing us with his presence, I know I’m in for a rollercoaster ride lasting several days. The trick is staying on the coaster without barfing, metaphorically speaking, of course.

The visit usually starts with the delegation marching into reception as if they owned the place (which of course they do). A little humility however wouldn’t go amiss. Next comes the barking of orders. They seem to derive a certain satisfaction from portraying the big boss (me) as being not so big any more. This has got nothing to do with me being 5’4″. (My Chairman’s no bigger, bizarrely). It’s more a belief on their part that the Yanks are God’s chosen people and therefore know best. This brings me nicely (or unnicely) on to the worst part of all. Both Chairman and Global CFO are deeply religious and take their management style straight from the Old Testament. How can you be in advertising and go to church, I hear you ask? With great difficulty, you hear me reply, considering the bare-faced lies our clients insist we broadcast to the public. Back to the Chairman; notice it’s the Old Testament, not the New that he swears by. We’re talking Eye for an Eye here not Turn the other cheek (just in case you were thinking that he and the Global CFO were a pair of marshmallows). When they were last over, they spent most of their time working out how to visit the modern equivalent of the ten plagues of Egypt on our competitors.

They’re flying in today. Pray for me.

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Perception vs Reality

In God Squad, Small Man, Big Ideas, Wannabe CEO on February 7, 2011 at 5:36 pm

My Chairman in NYC always carries a copy of the Old Testament with him and frequently regales me with texts from it, particularly when he thinks we’re not making enough money. Who says you cannot serve God and Mammon? But that’s another story for another post.

I myself am not so religiously inclined and prefer to keep Bertrand Russell’s The Problems of Philosophy in my inside pocket. I didn’t deliberately choose this book to wind up my boss just because Bertie boy was an avowed atheist. No, this particular book is a favourite of mine simply because it deals so eloquently with a subject at the heart of our beloved advertising industry, namely: what is perception and what is reality? I find that re-reading that first chapter in which Russell questions the very existence of the table upon which he’s writing to be a great mental warm-up prior to a brand strategy meeting. Suddenly the humble can of baked beans on the table in front of us seems so much more profound, worthwhile and packed with contradictions. Are they beans or just an idea of beans? (Warning note to wannabe CEOs: if you buy this book, handle it with care. Most clients will fire you if you argue that their factory full of shaving foam doesn’t exist.)

But do go buy it, read it, digest it and embrace Bertrand’s simple truth that nothing is what it seems. What better justification is there for your own existence if not to tell the world what things really are? To most Americans the Beetle was an ugly bug of a car. To Bill Bernbach it was the future of efficient, reliable motoring.

Your turn. What is this book?

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Go forth and multiply!

In Accountants, God Squad, Small Man, Big Shoes on January 2, 2011 at 7:44 am

That’s the command that’s just come down from on high. My Chairman in NYC, who’s a bible-quoting Plymouth Brethren fundamentalist as well as an adman, has just put the whole network in acquisition mode.

For 2011, it’s buy, buy, buy. There are bargains to be had in the recession, apparently. Now, as you know, I run the London office which is the biggest in the network other than NY itself. So it behoves me to pick up the gauntlet and get acquiring. Fast. I’m already assembling a team of top lawyers and accountants in my head in preparation for the conquest. I’ll have to brief them clearly on what type of agency I’m looking for though. Something funky and radical. People who are down with the kids. In fact, the complete opposite of the lawyers and accountants advising me. Funny! Go find me the polar opposite of you. Memorise the picture that I’ve attached to the brief for the long list. If the owner looks like this guy, don’t even talk to him!