Is Confidence What You Need For A Better Future?

I love a good historical drama, I’m a sucker for anything that gives us a peek into the way life used to be.

It seems to me, in the Victorian era, that your Character was your most valuable asset.  Your word, your handshake, whether you honoured your agreements and paid your debts, was openly discussed in society.

Were you honourable?  That was the first question someone asked before they would do business with you or allow you to accompany their daughter.

In one drama a man had written someone a check and it bounced because of insufficient funds, that was enough to make him a social outcast. Imagine the implications if that were true of today’s banking.

From Character to Confidence
At some point, we shifted our values and decided that being honourable, “your character”, was not as important as being confident.

Now we’re in pursuit of this great attribute.  She looked confident, he presented to the Board with confidence, I want my child to feel self-confident, this elusive thing is what people strive for.

It doesn’t matter if a project isn’t well researched, doesn’t appear sustainable or carries hidden risk – if it is presented with enough confidence people will buy in.

We’ve stopped questioning and valuing that person’s character.  Donald Trump seems to personify this – he is supremely confident and people are attracted to that, do they think he’s honourable – I’m not so sure.

Where will Confidence lead us?
Confidence is important – please don’t get me wrong.  I do a lot of coaching to help people find their confidence.  It allows you to be heard when you have an opinion.  It helps you push away anxiety and try something new. Continue reading

The New Men’s Ads – Confidence over Cocky

In the UK, Lynx is known for its spray on sex appeal.  In all its ads an average guy gives himself a spray, girls get a whiff and are drawn to him like a magnet.  The guy does nothing but show up, the girls instantly forget their good sense and their panties.

They aren’t the only ones that capitalized on men being cocky without much substance.  Many brands used that image of young men out for themselves, doing their own thing, with a devil may care attitude for everyone else.

So what changed?
It would appear that there’s some new strategy, it looks like brands are doing their homework.  In this age of analytics there’s plenty of data – you’ve got every opportunity to understand your consumer.

It seems that young men aren’t the strutting, boasting sex magnets they’re portrayed as.   Some have a few insecurities .

Lynx has decided to act on that.  So have Levis and Heineken.

What I love is that they’ve been true to their brand personalities, still confident and stylish, but now the message is better. Continue reading

Your Sphere Of Influence

When I was working in advertising I took one of my clients, a marketing manager at M&M/Mars, out to lunch.

You’d think selling chocolate would be a sweet job but there is a lot of pressure. They have to keep the favourites top of mind, battle for space on the shelves, make the finances work and then develop and launch new things to entice us to try something different.

I admired this manager because he seemed to take everything in his stride.  He didn’t show the obvious stress I saw in others.

He was easy to work with and considered his answers.  He made good decisions that he could explain to us.  His team were helpful and they laughed a lot, making me think they enjoyed working with him.

So back to the lunch, I asked what helped keep him grounded and his answer has stuck with me.  He said he was told, early in his career, that his sphere of worry shouldn’t exceed his sphere of influence.   He said he used that to keep things in perspective. Continue reading

Kick The Habit

As January is the time to kick a few habits, I thought we’d have a look at some old fashioned cigarette ads.  You remember – the glamour, the sex appeal.

Here are two from the 1960’s, portraying the life you aspired to emulate as you smoked.  Back then the cigarette brand you chose said a lot about you, as you flashed your pack to the world.

Kool – Lady be cool

Marlboro Country

Cigarette ads, in their hay day, hoped to lure you to their brand with the imagery they carried.  You could be transported from cleaning your kitchen with just a flick of your Bic, and you’d become an elegant Virginia Slims woman – “You’ve come a long way baby…”

How they’ve changed
What a long way the advertising has come, to market today’s E-cigarettes.

Here are two commercials of the 2015 variety – one is focused totally on tech without a smoker in sight.  And the other, if this is the “glamour” they’re using to entice women into Blu, it’s just cringy, especially that reference to her “special someone.”

E-Lites Curv

Blu E-Cigarettes

It’s definitely time to kick that habit.

Do you have a favourite cigarette story? Jot it in the comments below.

A Merrier Than Usual Christmas

I want to wish you a holiday full of fun, laughter and a very special Christmas.

I hope you enjoy it just a little more this year, more than you ever have before.  I’ve realized joy is where we find our strength.

These last months have seen our news filled with acts of ignorance and hate.  That’s created a big cloud of fear.  You have a choice about whether you live under that cloud.

We’ve also seen courage, compassion, resilience, tenacity and hope.  Each of us has those in us and together we build on them.

I’ve been inspired, and a bit awe struck, by people’s desire to push back against the horrors and live their lives vibrantly and wholeheartedly.

They’ve shown us that we can deny the fear mongers their pleasure, by using happiness, enjoyment and celebration to express our defiance.

My hope for you this Christmas is that you find your strength, defy the fear and rejoice in the things you appreciate in your life.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


PS: Quick Christmas ideas
If you are still looking for Christmas gifts or a place to celebrate, here are two ideas from people who embody both an exuberance for life and a joy in creativity.

Try something new with London Drawing:  They have gift certificates available.  Their classes range from absolute beginners to life drawing experiences in amazing locations.

Experience a glamorous night at The London Cabaret Club:  A glorious show, great food, dance, music and cabaret acts.  You can even flash your own fancy moves on the dance floor.  This elegant new Cabaret has launched with a bang – celebrate with them this Christmas or as a gift for next year.


Love, Resilience, Perfection

Antoine Leiris, wrote an open letter to the terrorist who gunned down his wife Hélène Muyal-Leirisin Paris, during the concert last Friday.
On Friday night you stole the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you won’t have my hatred.

I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know – you are dead souls. If this God for which you kill indiscriminately made us in his own image, every bullet in the body of my wife will have been a wound in his heart.

So no, I don’t give you the gift of hating you. You are asking for it but responding to hatred with anger would be giving in to the same ignorance that made you what you are.

You want me to be afraid, to view my fellow countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my freedom for security. You have lost.

I saw her this morning. Finally, after many nights and days of waiting. She was just as beautiful as when she left on Friday night, just as beautiful as when I fell hopelessly in love over 12 years ago.

Of course I’m devastated with grief, I admit this small victory, but it will be short-lived. I know she will accompany us every day and that we will find ourselves in this paradise of free souls to which you’ll never have access.

We are two, my son and I, but we are stronger than all the armies of the world.

I don’t have any more time to devote to you, I have to join Melvil who is waking up from his nap. He is barely 17-months-old. He will eat his meals as usual, and then we are going to play as usual, and for his whole life this little boy will threaten you by being happy and free. Because no, you will not have his hatred either.

A Question Of Authority

It’s amazing what we don’t discuss.  Most of us want the authority to make decisions, hire who we want or make choices that impact our projects.  But we rarely ask if we have been given that power.

Imagine we charge into something with the belief that we have all the authority to approve things.  Conversely, we might go into a project with the idea that the boss or committee is going to want to approve every step.

Either way, we’re often caught out, when we discover the other people involved have a different idea because it wasn’t discussed.

If you’re charging forward making decisions, you may bump up against an agitated person who’s adamant they should have been consulted.

If you are checking at each step, people may doubt your ability to lead the work and then your reputation gets dented.

Taking the time to think about what authority you are asking for, or granting, can save a lot of headaches later.

So how do you discuss authority?
Here’s an easy way to think about authority and what you are offering when you delegate to someone.

4 Levels of authority
1.  Bring me your recommendations and I’ll decide
2.  You decide, talk me through it, then act on it
3.  You decide, act on it, then let me know what you’ve done
4.  You decide, act on it, let me know if there is a problem Continue reading

Ads With A Twist

It’s always interesting to see what’s sexy in another country.  This ad from CJ Worx in Bangkok caught my attention for a couple of reasons.

The build-up is innocently sensual, leading you to think it’s a gentle ad for a teenage bra.  Then there’s the end, which left me wondering just who was the target audience they were hoping to attract.

It takes really strong creative work to surprise you in an ad. Thirty seconds isn’t much time to develop a story, establish a character, get an idea across and leave us with a product message.  If the creative team can sneak a surprise in there, that’s a bonus. Continue reading

Is Everyday Fight Or Flight?

I just finished a CBT course (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and some things really stood out for me.

One of the biggest is what a blunt drug Adrenalin is.

Our bodies are wired for survival.  When our caveman selves saw a threat to our fragile being, we got a big dose of adrenalin and its related hormones.  This helped us either run away or beat the heck out of the scary thing.

For some reason we haven’t evolved all that much, even though the things that threaten us have moved on considerably.

What Adrenalin Does:
Adrenalin and its associated hormones are triggered by our Sympathetic Nervous System.  This is automatic.  It gets us ready for a major surge of energy.
Heart rate increases                  Breathing becomes quicker and shallower
More glucose is released              Blood pressure increases
Pupils dilate sharpened vision   Cuts back saliva – dry mouth
Slows/stops digestion               Sends blood to muscles, twitchy, on edge
Inhibits immune system

In our brain, we become solution focused, scan for other threats and are action oriented.  Our mind wants to get us out of this dangerous situation as fast as possible.

To give us this increased strength, our body has to shut down a few other parts. It pulls blood away from the areas of the brain where we learn, create and imagine.  This isn’t what’s needed when we’re under threat.  It also shuts down our digestive system while we are adrenalin fuelled.

So back at the office…
Today, the things that feel threatening are usually not physical – certainly not a lion at our cave.  Our fight or flight mechanism can be triggered by an aggressive email, someone saying “Can I have a word”, the possibility of missing a deadline or being late for a meeting.

None of these things are going to kill us, but our sympathetic system doesn’t know that.  It can’t tell the difference, a threat is a threat and the adrenalin comes shooting out to get us prepared. Continue reading

Just Offensive

Smart Cars are great for urban areas.  They fit into little parking spaces, are easy to manoeuvre and make your life easier.  That’s what they want us to understand.

The last three seconds of this ad told me that, the rest of it just offended me.

First this isn’t a new idea.  Last year’s big shocker was little girls dropping the F-bomb to raise awareness for the Feminist Cause.  They tied the profanity into the message – they made an overt correlation between this shocking language and the shocking discrepancies in women’s salaries versus men’s.

You can watch it here: Little girls dropping F bombs for Feminism

BBDO Berlin’s use of tiny tots using foul words has no link to the product and a tenuous link to its entertainment value.

Honestly there is enough swearing in everyday life. It’s not funny because these little ones aren’t in the least embarrassed, they’re just repeating what they’ve heard.  It’s a sad commentary on the parents.

It’s also a lazy approach to strategy. It doesn’t make the brand look cool or do anything to help with perceptions of quality and safety – two things small cars have to overcome.

I’d say this ad does more damage than good – what do you think?

Gliding Is Seriously Underrated

Let’s face it, most of us work hard at really churning the water. On a good day we can tell we’re making progress, on a bad day we’re swimming against the tide and just trying to keep afloat.

We rarely slow down to think about the glide…

I heard about the power of the glide from a wonderful coach who also teaches adults to swim.  She has masses of glorious curly hair and a can-do philosophy.

She was explaining that part of our progress in swimming comes in the stroke, where we push against the resistance in the water. Then the other part is where we slide forward, gliding on the power we already exerted.  She says the glide is equally important and far less exhausting.

I’ve been thinking about how little we acknowledge, and never seem to rate, the times in life where it is essential to glide.

Somehow, if we aren’t forcing ourselves forward and pushing against the resistance, we don’t feel we’re adding value or pursuing our dream.  Yet, we all recognize there are times in life to turn on your turbo jets and other times you just need to quietly glide on and let the opportunities catch up with you.

We can’t go full throttle all the time
A couple of coaching experiences, I’ve had lately, really brought this home for me. Continue reading

Entertaining Ads Can Do The Work

Most people in advertising cringe when Millward Brown is rolled in by their clients.

We think pre-testing and over analysis leads to dead end ads.  We worry they’ll lose their entertainment value in favour of over egging the branding.

But having had several clients that used them, I learned to respect one of their requirements.

They insist that you shouldn’t be able to tell a friend about the ad, without mentioning the product.

It’s an easy rule of thumb to check if an ad will work.  If it’s entertaining but you don’t take out the message, what value is it to the company?  What’s the point of that money spent on media?

This ad from Leo Burnett in Paris fills the bill.  You have to talk about the product.

It’s a brand message which is all that’s needed, we all know how a paper towel works.

I think it’s a good one. The brand should stay top of mind with women, clearly their target, because it’s clever – and so are we.

Take That Two Week Vacation

This is a guest blog written by Dr Sue Guthrie,  Head of Scientific Services at Ogilvy 4D – The health behavior change specialists

The morning rush hour has miraculously disappeared and Wimbledon is but a memory – so it must be the summer holidays.

This is the time to head off with your family for two relaxing weeks, away from your desk, your clients and your email. Sounds perfect, huh?

So why is it that a third of British workers do not take their annual holiday allowance? Are we really too busy? That seems at odds with the fact that UK workers are the least productive of the G7 countries. Do we think we are indispensable? No-one is indispensable – even Apple has survived without Steve Jobs. Is it because managing work around your holiday is hard? Possibly, but that shouldn’t stop you.

Research from the US shows that taking time off is good for the individual, good for productivity and even good for the economy as you spend that holiday cash.

Henry Ford had the right idea back in the 1920s, he recognised that productivity could actually be increased by moving from a 48-hour, six-day work week to a five day, 40-hour week.

Correctly managed, holiday also allows your staff to take on some new tasks and enrich their own role. They have a chance to find new things they enjoy and are good at. They may even develop a better appreciation for what you do! Continue reading

Way To Sex Up A Fiat

Car advertising can be so predictable- high performance, curve hugging exhilaration followed by a woman in a curve hugging dress.

This Fiat ad is filled with clichés, but not the usual ones.  It manages to grab them from culture, sex and muscle busting transformation.  The combination is totally entertaining.

They don’t tell you much about car – who cares? The couple at the beginning are perfect, including her awkward toe waggle.

The woman at the end, eyeing the car with a grrrrrr, is also wonderfully cast.

It’s a nice nod to Fiat’s Italian heritage, from the USA agency The Richards Group.

Un lavoro d’amore…

Your Email Alert Is The Devil

Are you stressed, on overload, working late and thinking this is not what you bargained for?

Your email is killing you – or at least the joy in your job.

Let’s talk about the email alert first.   I’m talking about that little pop up in the corner that tells you there’s a new message.

It should have horns and a pronged fork.

We get the highest job satisfaction when we are in the “state of flow”. Research says that flow is characterized by complete absorption in what you are doing.

When you are in flow you are fully focused.  Time flies because you are totally into what you are working on.

Having your eyes flit to that pop-up every few minutes (or seconds!), then think about that new email, how it involves you and if it can wait, is killing your work mojo.

How can you possibly expect to think of something new, write something great or come up with a brilliant solution when your attention is shattered every two minutes?

That goes for the email alerts on your phone too.  I had a great coaching session with a woman who came up with a plan and was totally galvanized to move forward.  Before she left she glanced at her phone and uttered a panicked “Oh my word!”

I thought something dire had happened, but she flashed her phone at me and said, “All these emails are from the people I’ve tagged as important, I have to go.”

Now think about it.  What was she going to get done in the journey from our meeting room to her desk?

It would have been a much better use of her brainpower to spend a few more minutes inspired by her plan and energized by her future.  That’s what will make a difference in her career – no answering an email one and a half minutes faster.

The reality is – if it is truly urgent, someone will call you.  There is very little sitting in your inbox that is so urgent it can’t wait an hour.

You are 4 easy steps from deleting this devilish distraction in Outlook: Continue reading

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

There must be a million jokes about men going bald. It clearly plays on their mind…

For half the population this vague fear looms in the future.   Will I go bald, am I going bald? Is it receding right now, at the back where I can’t see it?

This Lynx ad, uses that fact in a whole new way.  It doesn’t play up fear in order to change behaviour, like many ads.  Instead it treats baldness as a casual reality that doesn’t deserve your attention.

They encourage you to strut your stuff, shake your shaggy mop, flick it, slick it, then make your hair shimmy.

Well, perhaps, I’ve gotten carried away.  They do say “Make the most of your hair while it’s still there.”

Fortunately, they have a lot of fun predicting your future and apparently you’re invincible – before they get to the hair product.

I like it.  Hope you do.

Lynx – BBH London

Inspire Your Team – Lead With A Deadline

Have you ever tried to lead a project and allow people the autonomy to do their part, only to be told you weren’t assertive enough?

Whether you are leading a small project or a massive innovation, you want to be seen as inspiring your group toward the finish.

You’re right in thinking that people are motivated by the freedom and space to do their part.

So how do you get the balance right; from totally hands off- to getting out your assertive stick and poking them along?

It’s all in the deadlines, that is what gives you control without seeming pushy. Continue reading

How Involved Are You In Football?

Everybody’s got their favourite – and their favourite place to watch football.  How do you convince someone to switch?

I worked on the advertising for TV programmes, movies and channels for a number of years.  When asked what that meant I usually answered, it’s like making a movie trailer with all the best bits, then explaining which cinema it’s in, all in 30 seconds.

It’s hard to get the balance right.  Too much focus on the entertainment and people don’t remember your channel.  Too much about the channel and it’s boring.

That’s especially true when you’re talking about football.

Usually these promos just add to the hype and excitement of the season, doing little for your channel recognition.

BETC Paris really understood that when they made this ad for Canal+ in France.  They launched the football season by putting the Canal+ team at the heart of the action.

They may have taken a bit of dramatic license, but it gives you a behind the scenes sense that this is a channel that will do it’s best to show you the game on the field.

Of course YOU can enjoy it in your warm living room …with snacks.

Silencing Your Inner Critic

Are you your own worst critic?

Do you attend a meeting, finish a project or speak up in a group and then hear that voice in your head doing a brutal review of what you should have done better?

I’d suggest this is holding you back.

You may think it pushes you forward but it really just saps your energy, steals your confidence and keeps you from learning.

Don’t believe me?  Then let’s reframe it.

What would happen if you talked to a small child, like you speak to yourself?

What if you told a child they were an idiot for attempting to run – they should just walk. What if you berated them for trying something new, if you criticized them at every turn; they would never progress and they’d be miserable.

Of course, you wouldn’t do this to a child.  You’d encourage them to learn new things. You’d want them to try, you’d help them believe that they could succeed– whatever it was they were attempting.

Now think about your critical inner voice, when it talks to you in that brutal, defeating way.

It uses your vocabulary, your tone of voice and an endless loop of repetition to tell you how you just aren’t good enough.   It is equally exhausting for you and can make you feel a bit miserable.

So how do you change that?
You can start to change that by focusing on the things you did well at the end of each day.  Your subconscious will grab those and make it the measuring stick for “good” going forward. It will strive to repeat the good stuff. Continue reading

What Would You Do For Your City?

This is a stunning piece of creative work by Y&R.  It has beautifully crafted animation, pulsing with emotion and a call to action.

It shows us a decaying city and its depressed citizens pulling together to rebuild New York City.  They gather their resources to rebuild its heart, sending new energy pulsing into every corner.  Even the Statue of Liberty breathes a sigh of relief.

They ask us to “Keep New York alive.”

Now at this point, I’m all in.

I thought they are going to ask for volunteers to help revamp depressed areas or tell me about the improvements as the economy has recovered.

I was sure they’d want my money, support or time, to help make NYC vibrant again.

But no – they want my liver.

The curve ball is that this isn’t about saving the classic architecture or rescuing old neighbourhoods from decline.  Its citizens aren’t depressed because of the decay.

In a weird and disconnected twist this ad finishes asking us to become organ donors and keep people alive. People…

I think the message needs CPR.

Drop a line in the comment box, I’d love to hear what you