The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Double Trouble …
August 23, 2012, 8:34 pm
Filed under: Comment

No, I don’t know what the AdStars committee were thinking either, but on the bright side, it’s just solved my dilemma as regards what to buy Jill as a wedding anniversary present.

I Become The Best Weapon North Korea Never Had …
August 20, 2012, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

So today I fly off to South Korea to be a judge and speaker at Adstars.

Yes … another conference, another speech, another “holiday” and another week where you don’t have to put up with my inane ramblings on this blog.

That’s a win:win in my book.

Except for the people going to the conference.

Anyway, this leads me to something that I think not enough planners pay attention to and that’s the art of the presentation.

We touched on this subject ages ago with an A[P]SOTW assignment, but I really cannot stress how important it is to be able to present well.

That doesn’t mean just having a clear, consise, informative and inspiring powerpoint/keynote deck, it means being able to present it in a way that conveys energy, enthusiasm, understanding, confidence and credibility.

Yes, I appreciate those are words you wouldn’t normally associate with me, but that aside, HOW you present is easily as important as WHAT you present.

Should that be the case?

No, it would be much better if people judged purely on the quality of work than the quality of the razzmatazz … but the fact is, we’re human beings and we like being entertained, especially when we’re being sold to.

That doesn’t mean we should all joke around and act like fools … nor does it mean tap-dancing is an excuse for a badly thought out presentation … it just means appreciating that people buy people and so if your approach is to basically read whatever is on the presentation screen verbatum, you’d better hope you’re explaining the secret to life or you might be beaten by someone who has a better ability to connect to an audience.

So how do you do it?

Well that’s the million dollar question.

One thing I am quite vehemently opposed to is standardised presentation training.

Sure, it can help with some of the basics [Don’t “ummm” and “ahhhh” when you talk. Don’t walk backwards and forwards while you’re presenting] but basically they try and homogenize the presenting style which undermines the importance of letting your personality shine through.

For me there’s a couple of ‘tricks’.

1. Self Review.

Get someone to watch how you present and preferably video it.

I know … I know … it’s horrible and hard, but it’s the first step to improvement.

2. Watch Others.

It doesn’t matter who they are or even what industry they work in … go and see as many presenters as possible.

Look how they present, write down things that make a big impact on you/the audience – good or bad.

It might the look of their presentation … the way they articulate their points … the tone they use while they talk … doesn’t matter, write them all down and then start grouping them into ‘good point/bad points’.

If possible, try and see people from a variety of industries present – you’d be amazed how different their approaches can be.

I can honestly say that I got more value watching how barristers and architects structure their arguments than pretty much any planner.

That doesn’t mean planners can’t present, but they all tend to have ‘a particular style’ and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it certainly doesn’t mean it’s the only way to convey your point of view, far from it.

3. Objective Review

So now you’ve seen a bunch of other people present and marked down their good/bad points – it’s time to give yourself some ‘tough love’.

Compare all your notes with the video/comments of your own presentation.

Where are the problems? What can you change? What are you doing well that you can build on?

In a perfect World, you’d of taken someone to all the presentations with you so that you can be sure the things you think are good/bad are genuinely good/bad … but even if you can’t, just comparing yourself to others will help you lift your game – and given so few people do this – it automatically puts you in a better position than most.

4. Go To Improv Class.

Yes, I appreciate this sounds utter wank … but in my mind, the power of presenting lies in your ability to read and react to an audience, rather than blindly going about your business as if they weren’t there.

Improv class is not about changing who you are, it’s about helping you be the best you can be.

It’s about understanding how to use your voice … how to use your body language … how to draw on your personal stories and anecdotes.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve fallen back on a personal experience to convey a particular point.

Doing this makes people feel more at ease … have a connection with you … feel what you’re saying, not just hear it … understand you are giving more than just ‘a presentation’, but talking about something that has a personal resonance – or relevance – with you.

Of course, having a well thought out, well articulated point of view is vital, but if you think that – or just a bunch of pretty slides – is all you need to make a positive and pitch-winning impression, then you’re either kidding yourself or simply presenting to audiences that don’t really matter.

See you next week.

It’s called ‘brief’ for a reason …
August 17, 2012, 6:13 am
Filed under: Comment, Creative Brief

Creative briefs.

The bane of my fucking life.

I hate them. HATE THEM!

But – and it’s a very important but – you have to do them because they not only provide the framework and inspiration for creative teams to start creating their magic, but they become a piece of historical reference on the brand that ensures people won’t post rationalise the execution and miss out all the little bits that made all the difference.

That said, the debate of what should and shouldn’t go in a brief still rages and I find that sad because at the end of the day:

+ You should never be a slave to the briefing format, the briefing format should always be a slave to you.

+ Different people like different levels of information so a ‘one size fits all’ mentality, is totally and utterly ridiculous.

+ A short brief shouldn’t be an excuse for ignoring the real issues that need to be addressed & conveyed.

+ A long brief shouldn’t be an excuse for not being clear, concise and interesting.

+ Regardless of what you are being asked to do, a brief should always be interesting, informative & inspiring.

Because of this, we have a few different briefing ‘formats’ here.

Some are designed for more junior guys to ensure they’ve done all the critical thinking necessary … some are designed for clients to ensure they give us what they need, rather than what they want … but all cover 6 critical questions.


What is the end objective? I don’t mean the execution but the business result.

In short, if they say, “We want some TVC’s”, ask why and don’t stop till you get some real reasons with some real quantifiable goals.


What are the key issue/s that are stopping this from happening right now.

It might be people’s attitude and behaviour … it might be a competitors product or distribution.

Maybe it’s an issue with our brand or communication or even a product quality or lack of innovation story.

Whatever it is, find the fundamental issue and write it down.


Who do we need to engage in conversation? Who do we need to inspire, inform, push?

Don’t just write a bunch of stats or bland statements, explain how they think, live, worry, behave.

Let people feel the person not just read a bunch of cold, clinical bullet points.


This is where blunt honesty is needed.

You can’t write this from the perspective of what the brand wants them to think, it has to come from the audiences mindset. If you’ve done your homework for the previous question, you’ll know the answer to this … and if you’ve done your homework well, you’ll know the answer is not going to be some marketing hype/bollocks, but something that satisfies a real need in their life – be it emotional, physical or mental.


Detail the macro approach you are taking to achieve this brief. It should be short, precise and full of creative mischief.

ie: Deposition the key competitors as ‘old success’ by making XXX the badge for ‘new, entrepreneurial achievers’ … or something.


Based on the goal, the barrier, the audience and the strategy – what is the brands point of view on the issue they need to address.

It should be something that is obviously based on truth but also full of tension and pragmatism.

ie: “You can’t change tomorrow if you don’t act today” … or some other z-grade sounding Yoda impression.

Don’t rush it. Take your time to really craft it because apart from needing to be relevant to the task in hand, it also serves as the creative ‘jump off point’ and if you’re going to help your colleagues do something that is powerful and interesting with it, you’ve got to ensure they really feel the tension and energy of what they can play with or play off.


You might ask why things like ‘tone of voice’ are not mentioned.

Well sometimes they are … sometimes they’re not … it depends on a number of factors, however at W+K, we place great importance on ‘brand voice’ so a few abstract words like ‘fun, upbeat & lively’ are not really going to cut it.

I should point out that how you brief your colleagues is another incredibly important part of the creative process.

If you give them a piece of paper and tell them to “read this”, you’re almost doomed before it’s even had a chance to begin.

While the brief should be inspiring on it’s own merits, it’s always good to think of ways to let your colleagues really understand what you are trying to get across.

That might mean you present it in a different location or environment to the office … that might mean you put them in situations where they can really feel what you’re trying to convey … that might mean you get interesting – yet relevant – people in to chat to them before you go through your hard work, but whatever you do, it’s always worth putting in that extra little bit of effort because it will genuinely pay dividends to the work that comes out the other side and that is ultimately what you’re going to be judged on.

At the end of the day it’s worth remembering there is no such thing as a perfect creative brief because ultimately, it’s about what you put on it – or how you present it – rather than what it looks like … however what I can say is that from my experience, as long as you have a culturally provocative point of view running all the way through it [obviously based on truth rather than ‘marketing truth’] then you stand a much greater chance of creating something that affects culture rather than just adds to the blunt, advertising noise.

How To Spot Inadequacy …
August 16, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

Following on from yesterday’s post, my wife has a simple way to see if the person she is dealing with is good or not.

If they always have a reason for why something didn’t happen, they’re not.

Sure, there may be occasions where what they are saying is true, but if this is their standard response to every failure – especially if they place the blame on others rather than taking any responsibility themselves [even though they’re ‘senior person’ involved] – then you can be pretty sure their inadequecy or laziness is going to cause you untold hours, weeks, months & years of pain and suffering.

If this happens, you really only have two courses of action:

1. Help them learn through the error of their ways.
2. Leave.

Of course it’s important to be sure you’re judging them fairly. We have a nasty habit of evaluating others by our own personal criteria – even when we don’t have the experience or credibility to really make an informed judgement.

But that aside, this simple test will help you work out whether you’re in a place of learning and challenge [which you should know anyway by the quality of work you help produce] or a home for bad management.

Use it carefully.

Thank you Jill.

Sometimes Letting Them Fail Is What Helps Them Win …
August 15, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

Contrary to what many may think, this is not a post about the W+K belief of ‘Fail Harder’.

When we say that, we mean it in terms of having the courage to try something different … that might redefine the category … that could impact and push culture … but what I’m talking about is literally letting someone fail because of their own inadequacy or laziness.

Once upon a time, in a land far away, I worked with a client who was universally acknowledged as ‘not being very good’.

Their colleagues said it.

Their agency partners said it.

Their researchers said it.

But this person stayed in their job.

Worse, they stayed in their job and got promoted.


Because people like me often did work way beyond our remit just to make sure we wouldn’t be embarrassed with what was going to be executed.

And what did we get for it?


Not a bean.

And then we got fired.

Yes, fired.

In essence, all we had done was give this guy credibility, wealth, promotion and over-confidence when what we should have done is let him fail because of his own inadequacy.

Sure, if we had adopted that tactic, the likelihood is we’d have been blamed for the situation rather than him – but that aside, the fact of the matter is we directly contributed to his success and our downfall.

So what caused this?

Well on one hand, there was the pressure from our employers to keep the client ‘happy’ but there was something worse than that and it was our own inherent need to not be associated with total and utter bollocks.

Sure, one persons bollocks is another persons gold – but the fact is, I’m one of those people who wants the ball when he sees everything is turning to shit.

Whether I have the talent to do that is open to debate, however at times of crisis, I will happily step up to try and do whatever I can to turn the situation around.

Sure, that hasn’t always worked because without doubt, I have been linked to more than my fair share of public humiliation … but that still hasn’t stopped me from stepping up when we feel everything is going down.

That doesn’t mean I suddenly start thinking I can do anything and everything … I don’t and I know I can’t … but what is does mean is that I will work a fuckload more hours with a fuckload more people trying to nudge, cajole, collaborate and push them into areas we feel are stronger and – to be honest – less embarrassing.

What gives me the right to decide what is – or isn’t – less embarrassing?

Absolutely nothing except my experience and standards.

Given I like Queen and wear Birkenstocks, I can see how scary that sounds – but if others are happy with coasting or worse, not being bothered, then taking charge isn’t about yout ego, it’s about self respect.

But as I said earlier, if you’re doing this over and over again – especially for the same person – then all you’re ultimately doing is helping them look good at your own expense.

While I don’t have children, I know that one of the best – and hardest – parenting methods is teaching through the actions of their actions.

In other words, letting them learn through failing.

Sometimes that is easy but sometimes that is incredibly hard – especially when your first instinct is to shelter them from any pain or suffering.

But it works.

It sets them up to be better and stronger and sharper for later life.

And while most of us don’t need such blatant lessons once we’ve entered the workforce, some of us do – and when that happens, it might be better for them [not to mention you] if some short-term suffering, humiliation and pain is allowed to happen so that longer term focus, responsibility and decisive, higher-standard actions can take place.

Or sackings.

Preferably not yours.

At the end of the day, life’s too short to deal with idiots so don’t feed the beast, help them learn from their own stupid, lazy, ineffective decisions. I know that doesn’t pay the bills, but neither does illness brought on by stress.