Archive for the ‘Small Man, Big Ideas’ Category

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?


Start as you mean to go on

In Chez Jeremy, Objects of Desire, Small Man, Big Ideas, Wannabe CEO on August 8, 2011 at 4:19 pm

One of my favourite dictums is the more thought you put in at the beginning of something, the more you’ll get out at the end. Take breakfast, for example. Getting your body (however small) off to a good start is critical especially if you run an agency that looks to you for constant inspiration. That’s why I always kickstart the day with a slab of wholegrain bread lightly toasted and smothered in blackcurrant jam. An all-natural piece of utter yummyness!

However, this is not simply a lesson on eating. It goes much deeper than that. I found the delectable cutting board and knife (pictured above) on a recent visit to Paris and I just had to have it. It’s one of the most tactile pieces in my kitchen (if you get one, be careful how you caress that knife as it’s mighty sharp). Each morning, as I stand, pyjamaed, in my Kensington kitchen, I look forward to cutting the bread as much as I do to eating the toast. Running my fingers along the faultless grooves on that objet d’art serves as a daily reminder that the work I do should be equally desirable. It’s an exhortation to me to burst out of my apartment intent on creating mini-masterpieces for my clients.

Wouldn’t you like to sally forth from your abode with the same vigour as I do from mine? Then find something to caress each morning that gets your juices flowing! It’ll change your whole outlook on the day.

There you go. Another few crumbs from my table. Enjoy!

Something cool to slip into …

In Chez Jeremy, Couture, Small Man, Big Ideas on April 16, 2011 at 10:27 am

I don’t know about the rest of you guys, but when I get home at night, I’m bushed! No surprise there really considering my management style. I like to walk the floors of the agency motivating the troops. And I always take the stairs in between which means I’m pretty much perpetual motion on legs. It doesn’t help either that I’m only 5’4″ with a relatively short stride. I end up expending so much more energy than your average Joe travelling from one end of the office to the other.

But when I get back to my Kensington apartment of an evening, I can’t just stop, bushed or not. Jeremy Parnaby is a multi-dimensional brand and needs to stay productive. So, as I close the door on the agency, I open one into my personal world. And from time to time (like now) I’ll give you a glimpse inside. First thing I do when I cross the threshold is cast off the work clothes. I exchange them for a loose-fitting tracksuit and my latest find – a pair of Nike Air Moc Maharam Pack. These babies look the business and feel the business too. Just slipping them on makes me want to moonwalk like Michael Jackson. (I may post a video one day if you’re lucky.)

Therein lies the simple lesson in this post. Get the right tools for the job. Equip yourself and surround yourself with stuff that inspires. Got a tough brief to crack? Staring at a blank sheet of white paper? Stare at a blank yellow sheet instead. That simple change of colour will open floodgates in your brain. The flood will turn into a torrent too if you dare write on that yellow paper with bright turquoise ink. Watch what might have seemed an average train of thought blossom into a kaleidoscopic extravaganza bursting with creativity. Want to write a novel after work? Or knock up a canvas for the Freize Art Fair one weekend? First slip into something inspirational. Works for me every time.

I’m off to pop on Billie Jean.

A restless brain

In Small Man, Big Ideas, Wannabe CEO on April 16, 2011 at 9:03 am

Look what popped out in the post today. A bag of jumping brains. Cute, aren’t they? I’ve ordered these for the agency. Two hundred to be precise. By the time you (and all my staff) read this, these little fellas will be hopping around the office courtesy of my super PA, Helena, and the geeky Welsh intern on work placement. Just wind them up and off they go. Hopping here. Hopping there.

It’ll be obvious to one and all when they arrive at work this morning what’s happening and who’s behind it. People expect this type of behaviour from me. That’s why I’m the boss. I’ve got a little watchword on this subject. Show them once a week why you’re the top banana. That gives my team something to aspire to, but also keeps those nasty pretenders to my throne firmly in their place, looking up at me (metaphorically speaking) in awe.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not disparaging my senior management here. I’m a great believer in David Ogilvy’s dictum that you should surround yourself with people better than yourself. But what happens when you can’t find them?

I’m hopping around on this post myself now! Back to those little brains on legs (all of whom Helena has appositely named Jeremy, by the way). I’m expecting a surge in lateral thinking in Knightsbridge today as a result of my multi-coloured plague. If I could plug Google Analytics into my staff, I’m sure I’d see a huge spike in the number of visits by their Muse. And that’s just what any great advertising agency needs. A restless ferment of ideas that you can charge lots of money for.

So take a lesson from the pond at the bottom of your garden. Put on your best yellow suit and be a sprightly frog. Not a big, moribund toad. Your clients will love you for it.

It’s a very big world out there!

In Small Man, Big Ideas on March 19, 2011 at 7:45 pm

I want you to think of one of the most intimate things you can do. Are you concentrating? Yes? Great. Take your time and get it right. I guess a few of you may be beginning to blush at this stage. That’s fine. I did say it was intimate. Okay, time’s up. Let me guide most of you past the bedroom where you ended up and straight into the bathroom.

I want you to picture yourself doing a number 2. Not in too much detail, I hasten to add. No 3-D glasses required. No scratch-and-sniff technology. Just little old you sitting elegantly on the throne. I’m sure you’ll agree that it doesn’t get much more personal than that. One is invariably alone when performing that particular act of nature.

Now I want you to consider a scenario that is the exact opposite. And I don’t mean the Glastonbury Festival where you’re in a huge field, hemmed in on all sides by sweaty, middle-class forty-somethings in wellingtons. I want you to think of outer space.

This is a particularly timely exercise as the boffins are telling us that we’ll be able to see a ‘super moon’ tonight – one that’s 14% bigger than normal. The sky’s forecast to be clear too, so I expect a lot of you (me included) will crane our necks for a look.

But for my extra-terrestrial task, I want you to change your normal perspective on space. To achieve this, I have to transport you as far away from Earth as possible. As far away as you can conceive. Once you’ve arrived at that distant place, you have to imagine that you can look all the way back. Past all those galaxies, milky ways, stars and planets that stretch before you for light year upon light year. You’ll need pretty good vision to achieve this, but since it’s a fantasy, we’ll take that as a given.

How insignificant does Earth look now from that infinitely faraway vantage point? It’s no more than a speck of dust. A speck of dust on which wars are fought, love is made and cookies crumble. A speck of dust where we get outraged about rich footballers, noisy children and traffic jams. But no one can hear us. All the time that Alexander The Great was conquering, Florence Nightingale was healing and Dubya was getting confused, it made not a jot of difference. What happens on our speck doesn’t matter and never will. Life on Earth appeared in a flash and will vanish just as quickly. Those of us who made a fleeting appearance (which involved frequently sitting on the loo, absorbed in ourselves) are specks of dust on a speck of dust.

Now where’s that life-and-death advertising campaign for baked beans that my client is hounding me about?

Looking for inspiration?

In Small Man, Big Ideas on February 25, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Then look no further than the humble teabag. Or coffee bean, if you prefer. David Ogilvy, that advertising industry doyen, once remarked that simply by leaving your desk, you will stimulate your brain. Not with caffeine (though that sometimes helps). It was the act of changing your surroundings that he meant. Making a cup of tea is a perfect example.

It’s a bit like taking your dog for a walk. Notice how Spot gets all waggy, excited and barks. Same with your brain. It doesn’t like to be cooped up in the same place all day. Let it off its leash by getting up and going somewhere, the toilet for instance. Before you pull the flush, the elusive answer to that question that had been bugging you will have arrived in your mental in-box. Try it and you’ll see.

That short walk helps turn a terrifyingly blank sheet of paper into a repository for a big idea. In the Creative Dept with an ad to create? At home with poem to compose? Or on the sun lounger with a blogpost to write? Feeling constipated? Then do as Mr Ogilvy says and go to the toilet. You’ll come back with a great weight removed and a great thought in its place.

This post is coming to you from the cubicle with the red door third down from the souvenir shop with the yellow rubber rings in Las Palmas.

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?

Like This!

I’ll tell you where to stick your poster!

In Planners, Small Man, Big Ideas on January 31, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Billboards, 48-sheets, Trivisions. Whatever you call them, we don’t need any more of them. I’m an advertising top banana but even I’m fed up with how these back-lit monstrosities are sprouting up, larger and more intrusive than ever, in every empty space in our towns and cities. I don’t mind my smartphone becoming the latest medium for companies to advertise their wares to me. At least I’m in control of that little device since I can always leave it in my pocket, turned to silent, if i want. But now I’m feeling personally guilty that some vacant urban space has been given over to a huge piece of steel by the industry I work in when a beautiful, life-enhancing tree could have been planted there instead. I dread to think at how many dinner parties advertising CEOs like me are being slated for inflicting promotional overload on the Great British Public.

Of course I’m not to blame. It’s those guys in media shops who we should be pointing the finger at. They’re the ones who’ve promised poster contractors that they’ll sell space on these skyline wreckers. And boy do they get a kick out of it! I’ve sat in client meetings when they’ve positively salivated over the latest piece of street furniture. The fact that the media owners frequently fly them round the globe from one junket to the next might have something to do with their perverse infatuation with the medium.

It’s time now to take a stand. Planners, do your duty by your industry! Take posters off your advertising briefs. Insist on multiple messages than can only be fulfilled in press. Start a movement. A facebook group. Form a collective that blogs against this intrusion (you’re good at that sort of thing). Tweet #plannersagainstpostercreep.

Together, but mainly on your own, we can stop this menace!

Let me know how you get on.

Like This!

Where to get protection in Paris

In Objects of Desire, Small Man, Big Ideas on January 29, 2011 at 11:55 am

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I spent the last few days in Paris. You’ll frequently find me in the French capital imbibing a dose of much-needed inspiration. Sometimes I’m visiting my colleagues in the Onward office there, sometimes it’s a solo trip. There are even some mornings when I leave my flat in Kensington and just turn left instead of right and jump on the Eurostar. (Actually I pop back in and grab my overnight bag which I have on standby in the hallway and then turn left instead of right.) My PA Helena is used to this sort of activity. In fact she encourages it. There’d be nothing worse than hearing ‘tut tuts’ down the phone when I tell her yet again that I’ve gone a bit lateral and changed the day’s plans. It keeps her on her toes and me refreshed.

On discovering that I’m en route to St Pancras station, Helena phones those good folk at my favourite hotel, Mama Shelter, in the 20th arrondissement and gets me booked in. They know me well there. The hotel was designed by Philippe Starck and oozes cool. Old Phil must have had us advertising guys in mind when he kitted it out. Each room has the latest Mac in it instead of a TV. And check out its groovy logo. It’s a chicken! ‘Come to Paris and Mama will shelter you like a hen does her chicks.’ That’s what it’s saying. And on these occasions, I don’t mind being thought of as a chick.

Like all great design, there’s more to this logo than first meets the eye. Look closely and you’ll see that the void between the hen’s legs is actually perfectly egg-shaped, begging the question whether Mama Shelter is the hen or the egg. I’ve deliberated on this and have concluded that Mama’s the hen, the shelter’s the egg and I’m the chick being doubly protected by hen and egg. (Though if you’re the claustrophobic type, you may prefer the free-range feeling of being a chick in an airy egg-shaped space (minus shell) where you could look up to Mama.)

Bet most of you didn’t spot the egg in the first place anyway. But don’t worry, if you hang out on this blog, you’ll see these things with time.

Like This!

I do stuff that most people don’t

In Small Man, Big Ideas, Wannabe CEO on January 25, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Look what I got sent anonymously in the post today. Was it from a grateful client, an envious competitor, an ex-girlfriend maybe? Whoever it was, it was very generous and perceptive of them. They know what makes me tick. The past tense of this quote would serve well as the epitaph on my gravestone. Wannabe CEOs, it could be yours too. As I keep telling you, be predictably unpredictable. Otherwise, why do your clients need you?

I’m going to pop off to the little boys’ room now, pull it on and wear it around the agency. I know that’ll piss off Sebastian, our Creative Director, because he thinks he’s the only one who’s lateral. Too bad. I’ll be a walking billboard (A-board more like at 5’4″!) exhorting the team here to explore at the outer edges of what’s possible. I might even do a couple of extra laps of the Creative Department just to make sure they get the message. Whoever shows me the most astronautical tendencies over the rest of the week can star in our next pitch. Now you don’t get many CEOs doing that!