Want To Learn Something New?

Have you ever had a job where you were really busy but bored?

At one point, when I worked for the biggest ad agency in London, I found myself standing too long in the ladies’ room, having to will myself to walk out the door.

I’d been working on the same account for eight years.  I had seen endless junior brand managers come and go.  If I could get myself to leave the bathroom, I was headed to my client’s office to have the same tedious discussion, about the size of their logo on a poster, that I’d had repeatedly over the years.

I was so bored with it.

I knew I needed to do something else.

Give me something new
Fast forward several years to my current role as a coach, helping other people figure out what they want.

Some clients hire a coach because they want a change and can’t see the way forward.  They’re adamant, saying “I need to do something different, really different – like a whole new industry kind of different.”

I understand the sentiment.  Learning something new is motivating.  It’s great to figure things out that you have never done before.  It’s exciting to see yourself getting better at something, understanding how or why it works.  Building your experience is a joy in itself.

Oddly, when we’ve absolutely dominated a skill or ability, it no longer holds a challenge.  It’s just repetition and repetition is dull.

That makes it easy to understand the pleasure of learning.  If you take up a new activity, golf, dance, meditation, skiing, there is an immediate satisfaction as you learn and improve.

Equally, when you change jobs and have to figure everything out, you feel like all your senses are on alert and you can’t afford to do anything on automatic, it’s exhilarating.

So why do we dread being in that learning seat?
Give kids a chance to learn something new and they leap on it.  They are quick to give it a go.  They laugh, concentrate and often point to what they’ve done with pride, they just learned it. Continue reading

Mercedes Benz Laid An Egg With This Ad

Mercedes Benz has done some brave advertising.  They have even ventured into selling their features without ever showing their car.

They hit gold doing this with their ad showing chickens that held their head with perfect equilibrium, no matter which direction their body moved.

That ad tied to the analogy nicely with an end line explaining their new feature had increased the stability of Mercedes suspension. It was slick.

If you missed it you can see it here

This new ad from Futatsu Industries in Norway tries to copy the same formula but misses the boat.

They show spoons pounding away on eggs in eggcups – interesting… but then the lights come up, the tagline says “1959- the world’s first safety cage” and it becomes clear that the spoons aren’t hitting eggs.

What the heck? They are bragging about a feature that’s 50 years old with a cheap lighting trick.  That doesn’t feel Mercedes at all.

What do you think?

How To Manage A Micro Manager

Is your boss a micromanager? You know the type, they give you an assignment, then check every step of the way to see how you’re doing.

Midway in their checks they offer to help because they can do it quicker or they understand it better or they know what the client wants.

And boom, you’ve been micromanaged. They swoop in, gather that project back to their chest and say they’ll call you if they need help.

There goes your project. You thought you were leading it and had plans of how to manage it yourself. Instead, you no longer have ownership, now you are just tailing along as part of the support team.

Autonomy is motivating
I talk a lot about Dan Pinks video on motivation in my coaching. He has the research to prove that autonomy is incredibly motivating.

Being allowed to figure something out for yourself makes your job interesting and you more willing to get out of bed and go to work. Continue reading

There’s Nothing Like A Broken Cliché

When an ad surprises me these days, I want to kiss the creatives.  It is so hard to do something in 30 seconds that has an unpredictable end.

John Lewis did it two years ago with the boy impatiently waiting for Christmas, but most of the time the story is short and the conclusion is a given.

This ad from KesselsKramer in Amsterdam for citizenM Hotels is great fun.  They hooked me with the swans made of towels then made me laugh with their end and tag line.

Wonderfully simple and memorable, with the product perfectly integrated.

I hear clichés crunching under KesselsKramer’s heels.

Preparing For A Job Interview – It’s Your Story

It’s happened – you got that call.  Someone wants you to come in for a job interview.

You may have been looking for a job or a head hunter called you out of the blue, either way, a date is looming and you want to be prepared.

I’ve had several clients who’ve requested coaching to prep for their interviews.

They don’t need my help researching their new company, they want help feeling confident, prepared and ready for anything.

Why we need help prepping
You’d think we would have all the answers in an interview– after all we are the subject of the questions and who could know our experience better…

Unfortunately, interviews aren’t that straightforward. It’s amazing how hard it is to think of examples when you are under the cosh.  Toss in a difficult interviewer, a stressful or distracting environment, some unexpected questions and wham, you want to excuse yourself and run for the hills.

So what can you do to prepare yourself? Continue reading

Old Spice – Talking To Moms Everywhere

Old Spice loves the ladies.  They advertise to women though their product is men’s cologne.

More specifically, they want women to buy their product for the guys in their life. Husbands, brothers, sons, it doesn’t matter – just get that product in the grocery basket.

However they do it with such charm and humour that you don’t mind the message.

Lynx, their big competition in this market have always targeted young men directly.  Their message is unequivocal – our scent is spray on sex appeal that makes you irresistible.

Lynx do it well, so it would be hard to challenge them in their heartland.   I think Old Spice have been wise to take a different approach to targeting.

Their famous ad with the Old Spice Guy, Isaiah Mustafa had over 48 million views last time I checked. If you want to oogle him once more click here.

Just for Mom
Their latest approach, with the ad below, shows dear old Mom.

They’ve used fantastic effects to show her in camouflage trying to keep an eye on her son.

Its clever strategy, funny writing and great execution.

Have a look.

Another winner from Weiden and Kennedy in Portland.

There’s A Beast In The Room, It’s Called The Company

I have a very wise client that observed, after listening to comments at his team’s away day, that there was a beast in the room.  He said the beast was mentioned by name “Well, The Company…”,  “The Company set up this process…”, “The Company aren’t doing enough…”

The beast in the room was The Company.

People talk about their company as if it is a strange entity.  Some rally against it, some are intimidated by it, many see it as a burden they must bear.

Few people look at their company as a vibrant community made up of people like them.  In fact, it’s not people like them, it is them.

Not my job…
When I was working at a UK Broadcaster we had a security service that patrolled all our buildings at night.  They’d started locking the small meeting rooms and they had the only key to open them.

One morning, a senior manager in my team complained that the rooms weren’t available for use until someone called security.  He then looked me in the eye and said “Why doesn’t someone call them every morning when they come in?”

I told him he was welcome to do that.  He shot back “I meant someone else.”

Oh, maybe someone from The Company … Continue reading

Simple Things That Make Us Happy

Sometimes I am humbled by what underlies our hectic lives.

We are so busy doing things, stressed to the max, trying to cram a little more into our day.

We’re exhausted by work, stuck in traffic and squeezing fun into our free time.

There isn’t much space for contemplating the meaning of life.

And why should we?  Surely, life is about living to the max, experiencing everything we can and acquiring a few nice things along the way.

This ad from Thailand made me pause for a moment.

It made me remember that some of the happiest people I’ve known were poor, many had large families and enjoyed simple pleasures.  They laughed regularly, celebrated small successes and relied on their faith in the rough patches.

I wonder if this ad, from Ogilvy & Mather Bangkok, would work to sell life insurance in the Western World?

What do you think?

Why Didn’t They Buy It? Tips For Pitching And Presenting

Your work was brilliant but the client didn’t get it… what happened?

I’ve been working with a lot of creative teams on selling their ideas.

You’ll recognize their struggle if you do any kind of presenting where you are trying to convince someone to try something new.

You work hard on your concepts, put it together in the way that makes sense to you and give it your full voltage enthusiasm.

But you don’t get wild applause. You get doubt, confusion or disappointment.

It may not be your work, it may simply be the way you presented it.

Two ways into information
There are two different ways people prefer to receive and share their information.

1. Some like real, actual, factual information, tangible things they can touch, see and feel.

2. Others like the intangible, the possibilities and the connections they can imagine.

Myers Briggs statistics show that over 70% of the general population prefer that first approach. They like to deal with reality and base their decisions on the concrete things that they can observe and discuss.

However, jobs in creative industries naturally attract people in the second group, people that are excited by possibilities and enjoy the challenge of solving something that isn’t obvious or clear.

If you work in a creative industry, you may be surrounded by people who like big ideas and trust themselves to figure out the details later.

Consequently, you might think your clients feel the same, that you can explain your overall concepts to them first and explain exactly how it will work later.

That approach could be a problem, if that isn’t how your client takes in information.

Continue reading

Is It The Brief Or The Brand?

Advertising consistency is a difficult game built through briefs and brand identities.

We have extensive brand guidelines, charts on tone of voice, lists of what the brand should and shouldn’t be. All in hopes that the communications will be a matched set and consumers will remember the product.

If consistency is the end goal, Coca-Cola are the masters in their field.

Their advertising displays the feel good factor across countries and agencies. Continue reading

How To Give Feedback To Almost Anyone

“It’s going to be a difficult conversation”… it makes you cringe just reading the words.

We all have to have those discussions.  You’ve got something to say to someone and it isn’t all positive and glowing.

You know you need to address it but you don’t want things to get ugly.

With a bit of thought, giving feedback doesn’t have to be painful.

Whether you need to offer feedback on someone’s behaviour or you’re offering feedback on creative work, you can do it in a way that is open, inclusive and productive.

Is it Feedback or is it Criticism
Consider the difference between these two words. Continue reading

Sex, Brands And Winter Olympics

Brands love to associate themselves with the prowess, discipline and sheer brilliance of Olympic athletes.

Big brands sponsor the games, showing their respect for the best in their field and borrowing a bit of their glory by association.

Other brands try to jump on board using athletic images in their advertising and cheering on their country’s teams.

This year, some brand ads have taken a turn that seems to me to be completely off piste.

The Olympic Games themselves seem to be running unscathed by Russia’s rejection of Gay Rights. However several brands have chosen that particular trail to hurl down in their own brand-defining luge.

Below are two ads that try to use humour to offer support to gay athletes.  I don’t see how they help the cause.

Where is the celebration of athletic feats that astonish us?  Where is the respect for the years of training, endurance and drive to be the best?  Where in these ads do the brands make the point that personal sexual preference is not an issue?

Last year Channel 4 did an outstanding job of raising awareness of Paralympians as Super Humans.  If you missed their promotion click here to watch it.

They helped redefine disability and put their athletic achievement first and foremost in our minds.  They helped shift our perceptions.

These two ads don’t do anything so noble.  They use gay stereo types to get a laugh and do little to help build respect for alternative lifestyles.

Have a look and let me know what you think, does this humour do the job?

Managing Your Appraisal, Stonkin’ Objectives And Decent Feedback

I’ve been doing some fun training this month at a UK broadcaster. It involved a campfire, coloured pens and a hard look at managing your own annual appraisal.

Fun? I hear you asking, how can that be fun?

It’s fun to help change people’s perspective.

Moving them from dread to recognising that their appraisal is an opportunity to control their destiny and improve their lot– that’s an interesting proposition.

If you manage your own appraisal well, it will mean more than just a quick review of what your boss thinks you’ve been doing all year.

Then if you put some thought into this coming year, about projects that would motivate you, be interesting and challenging to work on – you’ll be shaping your job in a new way.

This could be the most important thing you write all year. Everything else you write will be about work, this is about you and your future.

So let’s see if I can help you change your perspective, then you can shake up your own annual appraisal.

Don’t just wing it
Great appraisals start with some solid prep work. This isn’t the time to fly by the seat of your pants. Here are a few things to prepare. Continue reading

Start Something New

Out with the old, in with the new, it’s a fresh start.

There’s a short window at the beginning of January where we look at the year in front of us and see all its possibilities.

With the whole year ahead we have everything to play for. We can put last year behind us and look forward to the things we daydream about.

This year, we will chase what we want and grasp it with both hands.

We’ll find new challenges and as the year unfolds we’ll feel the satisfaction of a job well done.

This is the time to start something new. Continue reading

Merry Christmas to all

I want to wish you a very happy Christmas break filled with laughter, good food and people you enjoy.

I know this is a crazy time of year, office parties, school plays and stolen moments for some quick online shopping.

Then suddenly it’s here. Christmas sails by and we are celebrating the new year.

In keeping with the season, I want to share an ad I think captured the spirit of Christmas.

I love this because there isn’t any  hype and yet Sainsbury’s definitely own it. Continue reading

Just Like Sports, A Coach Can Up Your Game In Advertising

Being in media, broadcast or advertising is a crazy job.  It’s stress filled, panic driven and a wild, exciting ride if you can hang on.

It’s difficult to focus on your own performance or improve your ability because there is never enough time.

That’s where a turbo boost from a coach can help.

The goal of your coach is to help you build on your success, look at ways of maximising your potential and help you stay at the top of your game.

How can you keep the excitement and lower the stress?
A coach will help you eliminate the things that you keep batting away; things that cause you doubts, problems that aren’t creative, issues managing up or managing your team, things that gobble your time. Continue reading

Mercedes Benz – An Entertaining Ad With A Level Head

Guest Post By Milly Chu, Account Director
I love a great ad. Its ability to entertain you and impart a persuasive brand message is a unique fusion of business and creativity.

This ad feels too simple to be true; it’s funny and stayed in my head because it’s so brave.

Mercedes ‘Magic Body Control’ has clocked up nearly 4m views online in the last week. It embodies a simple creative thought coupled with an artful execution. It stands out because it’s wholly entertaining. Continue reading

Saving The Best For Last – Does It Work In Creative Presentations?

There is a long held agency belief that saving your best work for last makes the strongest creative presentation.

The hope is to build anticipation through the presentation so when you get to the highlight, they’ll buy it.

Then the meeting will finish on a high and your client will skip away feeling like they got their money’s worth.

If that’s your agency’s approach, it might be worth challenging tradition.

Why it doesn’t work
When you’re presenting, if your first piece misses on some element of the message, if they think it isn’t quite on brand or it lacks entertainment value, your client’s internal chatter starts immediately. Continue reading

Rules Or No Rules – Messages In Car Advertising

These two ads take totally different approaches to shout about their technology.

One says trust us because we think creatively, work hard and nothing will get in our way. They use the end line “New Rules.” The other says we’re bringing you something unique because we won’t accept the rules.

They couldn’t be more different.

The first one is for Toyota Auris, The Alternative, who rejects the rules.

It’s a big production, full of pomp and circumstance. Some Big Wig (literally in a wig) is telling the masses that they have no choice. Then the voice over says “In a world where you think you only have one choice, we introducing the alternative.”

The problem is credibility of the build-up.

They compare the choice we have in music, phones, and pets for the family, with the relatively few choices we have had in a car engine.

Even the timing feels off, the Hybrid engine they are flaunting launched years ago, the fact that it is being offered in a new model feels a bit flat. Saatchi and Saatchi in Milan developed this one.

Moving on to Chrysler’s “How to change cars forever” approach. Continue reading

What Inspires Original Thinking?

Original thinking is that flash behind inventions, breakthroughs and discoveries. That moment you come up with an idea that is really new, not an adaptation of something you already know.

We might get there occasionally, but what inspires that moment? Why is it so rare and elusive to be an original thinker?

Nancy Kline, Founder of Time To Think, believes she has the answer.

I heard Nancy speak recently about original thinking. She’s a wonderful storyteller, has an eclectic vocabulary and she plays your emotions like a violin.

She says the quality of our work depends on the quality of the thinking we’ve done before hand. She asks if most of our thinking is recycled or repeated ideas, how good can our work be?

I hear you moan as you read this.

In creative industries we want unique work, but we never have the luxury of being allowed time to think.

Getting stuck with the obvious… Continue reading