What The Fuck Are We Supposed To Do Without Stephen Fry? (A Starter Guide For Twitter)

February 8, 2010 24 comments

Back in the day, there was a very clear process for signing up to twitter:

1. Sign up for twitter
2. Follow Stephen Fry
3. Read a couple of Stephen Fry’s tweets, and feel oddly unfulfilled
4. Go to the pub and talk about how shit twitter is

Last month though, media-appointed TWITTER-GOD Fry announced that he’d be hanging up his laptop while he focused on writing the follow-up to Moab Is My Washpot, the first volume of his autobiography, and twitter-newbies were sent into a tail-spin. “What the FUCK are we supposed to do now?” cried the people who’d just signed up to what they had been led to believe would be the equivalent of a never-ending episode of Fry and Laurie, broken up with the occasional philosophical biscuit from Ashton Kutcher. They were devastated.

And that’s why I’m writing this. It will be a short burst of narrative (this bit, the bit you’re reading now), followed by a list of people you can follow to get started. Or, if you’ve already started, that you can follow anyway, because they will all, in one way or another, make your life on twitter better. Because, and here’s the truth:

There’s more to twitter than Stephen Fry.

I know. Just keep breathing. Let it hit you. Swill it around your mouth for a bit, then say it with me. Trust me, it feels good. Done it? Ok. Here’s another one for you:

As a general rule, the twitterers you’ve read about in the papers ARE REALLY BORING.

I know. Twitter-blasphemy. But fuck it – it’s true. As a wise lady said recently, unfollowing Fry, Izzard et al felt like graduating; it’s a phase we all had to go through, and about which we prefer not to talk. But you, dear reader, don’t have to go through that phase. You can get straight, as they say, to the good shit.

So here’s the list. There’s no order to it; no rhyme nor reason. It’s a mixture of people who swear, people who pontificate, people how write about films or music, people who write about food, people who talk about ads, people who talk about anything that comes to them, people who aren’t real people… Importantly, it’s my list – these are all people I find interesting, amusing or both. You’ll love some of them, others will leave you cold; in which case you just unfollow. That’s the joy of twitter: it’s exactly what you make it; nothing more, nothing less.

(If you do choose to unfollow someone, though, don’t feel the need to @ mention the person to let them know – that’s the twitter equivalent of walking up to someone at a party, explaining you’ve been eavesdropping on them for the last twenty minutes, and that they’re FUCKING boring. Which, needless to say, is sodding rude. So don’t do it.)

Anyway – the list: @campaignmag, @markmedia, @jonathanbriggs, @Amelia_Torode, @dabitch, @adland, @JessGreenwood, @mashupevent, @iboy, @carlmartin, @jackfaulkner, @camiknickers, @Eamonn_Forde, @herdmeister, @adsoftheworld, @litmanlive, @joodoo9, @Matt_Muir, @LukeMackay, @Elika, @Ferders, @martingoode, @JezzaLee, @Colman, @doug_graeme, @straycarnivore, @nicowen, @W2Optimism, @GenYTrends, @Nero, @zambonini, @caitlinmoran, @EmmaK67, @alexispetridis, @snoxishere, @RealMenTweet, @HenryGreenwood, @neilperkin, @Bumblecricket, @Channel4News, @Floheiss, @guideguardian@theKaiserII, @willrolls, @guardiannews, @mikebutcher, @grumblemouse, @toyboxstudio, @Will_Humphrey, @Ruby_Pseudo, @CameronOlivier, @theodelaney, @tomgriffola, @dianainheaven, @Jackster69, @mashable, @laurenrubin, @oatmeal, @ammonite, @contagiousmag, @trippenbach, @1stpost, @robwillb, @themanwhofell, @dougiehouser, @katylindemann, @hollowlegs, @techcrunch, @serafinowicz (the ONLY ‘comedian’ on the list – and he can get very irritating), @essexeating, @lenisebrothers, @BelgianWaffling, @Film4, @theboyhimself, @BBHLabs@LucyBaxter, @downatheel, @McMucca

This is clearly not an exhaustive list – and I’d like you to help me build it. If there are people I’ve missed who absolutely HAVE to be there, add them in the comments. Hell, add yourself. The more, the merrier, and the better twitter gets for all of us.

UPDATE: I’ve built a twitter list of all of these people to make your lives EVEN easier, because I am dead nice. So follow them all here.

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Decode at the V&A

February 7, 2010 5 comments

I finally got round to going to see Decode at the V&A last weekend – something that had been on my geek list for a long time. If you haven’t heard of it, you can read about it in detail on the V&A site, and you can see a few examples of the stuff it featured at the top of this post, but I’d urge you to get down there and see it. And, more than that, to get down there and play with it, interact with it, participate in it, and get involved with it. Because it’s BRILLIANT.

Yes, some bits are geekier than others. As you’ll see from the V&A article, it’s split into three sections (Code, Interactivity and the Network), and the first of those is pretty hardcore on occasion, when you get deep into the artistic visualisations of real-time code and data (although, you know, on a purely aesthetic level, it’s just dead pretty), but it was the second two sections where I really started to fall in love with Decode.

As far as I’m concerned, digital media is all about engagement and participation, and Decode really brings it to life in beautiful and entertaining ways. Sure, there’s something slightly odd about going into a dark room in an old museum in South Kensington to experience the artistic and interactive freedom that digital media bring, but it’s also a hell of a lot of fun. I was there on my own, and it took me a while to shake off the shackles and start titting about with the exhibits in the way they were designed to be titted about with, but I got there; and it was well worth it in the end.

And it is worth devoting some time to this. If, like me, you have a job, you’ll probably find that you’re there when it’s quite busy, and there will be queues for all the fun stuff – but make sure you queue, and make sure you have a go. Watching is one thing, but it’s when you get involved that Decode really comes to life.

It’s open ’til April 11th, £5 for adults, £4 for concessions. Go play.

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Adland and Coy!

February 7, 2010 3 comments

Well, isn’t this just all kinds of lovely? The rather brilliant Mark Denton Esq and his chums at Coy have made a 3 minute animation all about, well, advertising. As you’ll see, there’s a million and one references in there, from the Hamlet cigar chap to the Sony rabbits, via some Skoda cake cars and, unless I’m very much mistaken, a strangely familiar headless chap in a waiting room. It appears to be for this year’s Creative Circle, and it’s a joy.

So watch it. It’s all kinds of gorgeous. Promise.

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Mark Lund’s Advice To Suits

February 1, 2010 17 comments

Mark Lund is, as most of you will know, the CEO of the Central Office of Information, the COI – in essence, the marketing department of the Government – and the man ultimately responsible for the largest advertising spend in the UK. A legendary Suit, he was, obviously enough, one of the founding partners of Delaney Lund Knox Warren, the Agency where I’ve worked for the last 5 and a half years; a large part of which I spent working with him, on Vauxhall, Opel and the RAF. For all those reasons, when he talks about how he thinks Agencies should work, it makes sense to sit up and listen.

I met up with Mark the week before last and we chatted. We talked about a lot of stuff, all of which is contained in an mp3 on my desktop, waiting for a weekend free of work (or tennis) so that I can transcribe it all, and write it up: we talked about his career in advertising, and how he’d ended up launching one of the most successful advertising agencies of the 21st Century; we talked about life at the COI, and the differences he was experiencing now he was sitting on the Client’s side of the fence; and we talked about the future of the industry, how he saw things panning out, and the role he envisaged Suits playing in that. All of these things will come up in posts over the next few weeks – it’s too much to cover off in one.

In this, though, the first of the Mark Lund posts, I wanted to run through some advice he gave to the Account Handling department at DLKW shortly before he left. Some parts of it will be familiar – for obvious reasons, he’s been quite a big influence on the way I believe the job of a Suit should be done. This post is based on the notes I took at the time – you’ll just have to imagine it delivered with the traditional Lundy pizazz…

1. Suits need to be the Big Bang. The natural state of the universe is inertia – the same is equally true of an Agency. Account Handling are responsible for getting everything moving – for being the catalyst in that initial reaction from which everything else originates. Without Account Handlers, nothing starts, and nothing happens. It’s a truism to say that there is never enough time, and never enough money – Suits are responsible for making sure that things happen regardless, and that stuff gets done. As Churchill once said (Lundy LOVES a Churchill reference), “History will not criticise us for doing too much.”

2. It is the job of a Suit to tell the truth in the best possible way – we are the ambassadors for the Agency with the Client, and responsible for reflecting and understanding the Client’s view within the Agency. This is not about being machiavellian, and it’s certainly not about lying: it’s about distillation of the truth, and ensuring that it’s represented in the most practical, pertinent and useful way.

3. A Suit should always have a point-of-view, and should be looking to add value at every stage of a process.You should have a view on everything, from the data through to the final work, via the complicated world of Client dynamics and politics – if you don’t have an opinion, you’re not adding any value, and there’s little point in you being there. (Choosing the appropriate time to express those views is, of course, a skill in and of itself…)

4. No Suit is an island. This is something I’ve touched upon before – we have to work together. Problem-solving is a group activity, and Suits should be responsible for harnessing the power of that group. Pitches are won and great work created by having the right people working together in the right way – the best Suits are selfless, and will lead that process.

5. You have to love the thing you’re making – you have to love the work. There are an infinite number of details involved in any kind of creative production, from the casting to the cut, the VO to the wardrobe, and a Suit has to care about each and every single one of them. That isn’t going to happen without an enormous amount of enthusiasm on your part – nobody else has to care as much, or for as long as the Suit does.

6. But that said, a Suit must maintain perspective, keeping enough separation from the creative work to allow him to do so. Mark illustrated this point with an anecdote about a group of people on the Melanesian Islands, who had ended up worshiping abandoned cargo planes – they had no idea what they were supposed to be used for, and so worshipped the form rather than the function. A Suit must NEVER forget that the most important, driving element in any brief is the Client business – we should always be conscious of that, and we should always ensure that it is that which is driving every decision.

7. The things we fear most in organisations – fluctuations, disturbances, imbalance – are the very things that drive creativity. As Suits, we have to get used to walking the wire, and to love the act of doing it – successful creativity is all about balancing and harnessing those disturbances, and we have to be the ones that take control of that.

8. Whatever the brief or business problem may be, we are always dealing with PEOPLE – a Suit is responsible for eradicating any ‘them and us’ thinking, be it between the Agency and the Client, or, equally importantly, internally. Relationships should always feel like two adults working together – there’s no room for parents or children in Advertising. This is true of relationships with Clients, Creatives, Planners and pretty much anyone else you care to mention.

9. The consumer is your new boss. They are also your old boss. The whole idea of interactive conversations or social media is not a new way of thinking – it’s just a modern acknowledgement that consumers have always controlled brands; that brands have only ever existed in the hearts and minds of consumers. The internet has given consumers a much quicker and more convenient way of sharing their thoughts, for better or worse. A good Suit remembers that the most important Client on any project is rarely sitting in the meeting room.

10. Ultimately, a Suit’s job is all about creating an atmosphere in which others can do stuff well – in which creative thinking and implementation can thrive under your encouraging eye. It is not about being the hero, it is not about taking the applause. Or, as he put it, “there is no limit to what you can achieve if you are prepared to let others take the credit.”

And there we go. He started the presentation by talking about Account Handling being far and away the most important part of the Agency – a department that has to be sensitive to, and good at, all the other things as well. As you might expect, it’s a view I wholeheartedly endorse.

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BBC Winter Olympic Trailer

January 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Epic. Beautiful. Utterly meaningless. I love it.

(I can only find the shorter version on youtube – if anybody spots the longer version, let me know and I’ll update. Cheers.)

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The Importance Of Client Entertainment

January 28, 2010 4 comments

There are many areas, as I’ve discussed elsewhere, in which a Suit can add to the quality of an Agency’s Creative output: he (or, obviously, she) can know the brand or product better than anyone else involved in the process, helping to finely hone the brief or proposition; she (or, indeed, he) can manage the timings to within an inch of their life, getting the brief to the Creatives that crucial week earlier than they might have expected; he (or, naturally, she) can work so closely with the BACC that even they are surprised to see what they let you get away with on air; the list goes on.

But there’s one area in particular to which everyone in the Agency looks to the Suit – and that’s when it comes to managing the Client. And so – the importance of the Client/Suit relationship.

This relationship can define the work that a partnership (important word) produces – and, of course, it’s based on many things: trust; respect; genuinely liking each other; all of these are hugely important. But for this quick post, I’m going to focus on the most important element of all – Client entertainment.

Now, sadly, the days when this meant days that started with lunch at the Ivy and ended with the ingestion of a miscellany of class As from a plethora of prostitutes’ backs are, for the most part, gone. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t fun to be had. In my time, I’ve Lunched (a capitalised ‘Lunch’, incidentally, must never last less than four hours) in vineyards all over the world, I’ve indulged in some of the finest wines known to humanity (I mean, seriously – there’s a bloke in New Zealand who ended up sitting with us while we finished off the last bottle of the day, a bottle he thought he’d “never sell” – he still sends a Christmas card), I’ve been involved in some of the most ludicrous nights out, where… no, I can’t go there. Sorry.*

But all this is important – because while the wine, the food, the etc, is all a lot of fun, the key point is that you’re building a relationship with the Client that goes way beyond ‘the guy who tries to sell me ads I don’t want to by’. You’re getting involved in their real lives, and they in yours. I’ve been lucky enough to work with Clients who have ended up as genuinely good friends, and these lost afternoons/nights/weekends/months have played a crucial part in all of that. With these relationships comes trust, the sort of trust that leads to conversations that begin, “I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but…” and with that trust comes the ability to get the best work through – and that’s something that  benefits EVERYONE.

So, as my dear friend Dave Knockles would probably say, get the fucking beerz in. We’ve got shit to talk about.

(Incidentally, I’ve got some amazing stories that I can’t share on here. If you want to hear them, well, you’re just going to have to get the beerz in. See you at Pied A Terre?)

*I’ve also been to the worst Christmas party of all time – like a nightmare wedding reception in the deep South of the US, directed by Wes Craven. But that’s another story.

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Save The World, Shoot The Dancers (And The Lyricist)

January 20, 2010 14 comments

This is going to be one of those posts where I say very little. Because there’s really very little to say.

Above is footage taken from the launch of the Chevy Vault, GM’s electric car, at the LA motor-show last year.

I would urge you to watch the video in its entirety, I would urge you to listen to all of the lyrics, and then I would urge you to go see a therapist, because you will have stared deep into the abyss, seen the blackness at the core of everybody’s soul, and life will NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN.

I like to think that GM were merely trying to maintain a karmic balance: we’ve created a genuinely revolutionary automobile that has far-reaching implications for the environment and the way we treat the planet; we’d better balance that out with a really cunty song and dance routine. In their defence, this is a motor show performance, rather than anything they’ve filmed and put on air… But am I the only one who can already picture the mood film?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to scrub my eyes, ears and brain with steel wool.

And please, please forgive me for bringing this to your attention.

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