Post of the Month - June 2015 - Nominations


It's time to open nominations for Post of the Month. If there's a good post that you've read and that was posted in June you can nominate it direct or in the comments below. Lots of good writing that I could have included in my shortlist this month - I've picked four for starters, but do add to them with your own nominations and I'll put the long list up for the vote. So my starting four are:

What if Cannes Celebrated the Worst, Not the Best of Advertising? by Tom Goodwin

Dump the Dogma - by Richard Huntingdon

Tomorrow Today by Gareth Kay

Will Advertising Ever Again Be About the People it Serves? by Tracey Follows

Do add your own nominations.

Performance Firestarters 8: Data, Real-Time and Creativity


I think the relationship between data and creativity is one of the most interesting dynamics in our industry right now. Some parts of our sector are arguably under-estimating the role of ad tech and the potential impact of an ever-increasing role played by algorithms, others are seemingly under-playing what Tim Leake calls the 'art and craft of creating an unreasonably powerful piece of behavior-changing advertising'. Yet there is surely plenty of significant opportunities in how data can inform creative, how real-time and personalisation can enhance customer experience, and even for how creative can become highly adaptive at scale.

So for our eighth Performance Firestarters will be focusing on these challenging, but fascinating questions and as always we have a great line up of speakers. Since we've had such success in previous Firestarters with our short, punchy talk format, we will have five talks of no more than 15 minutes each that will come at the subject from a variety of perspectives.

Will Sansom, Director, Content & Strategy at Contagious will begin by talking about whether one day, we might see algorithms running agencies. Simon Andrews, from Addictive, will be talking about automating creativity at scale, Katherine Maryon from Periscopix and Alex Emberey from Ladder Digital will be giving their perspective on the new ways in which they're using data, algorithms and automation with creative, and author and content marketing specialist Jon Burkhart will be speaking about the power of real-time content. It's going to be a truly thought-provoking but fun evening.

The event takes place on July 9th, 6.00pm at Google Central St Giles, London. As always I have some free passes to give away to readers of this blog so if you'd like one, message me direct or leave a comment below.

Google Firestarters 16 - The Magnificent Seven - The Event


Wednesday evening we brought together seven of the smartest brains in strategy and planning for our 16th London Firestarters event and we asked them to answer one simple question: What is the most useful thing that you have learned to date in your career? Each of our speakers was given only ten minutes but the result was some wonderfully thought-provoking, insightful, inspiring, and heartfelt talks.

First up was Richard Huntington, Group Chief Strategy Officer, Saatchi & Saatchi, who gave a brilliantly entertaining talk about the difference between being right and being interesting. His starting point was that we need to remember that no-one actually needs planning, and some of the most memorable campaigns in ad history have been created without the benefit of input from the discipline. But having no entitlement to exist is a good thing, since it means planners always need to remember the need to prove value. And there are two main ways in which planners can bring value:-

  1. Constant optimisation: focusing on the little things that make the big differences. To optimise approaches or work to maximise performance or effectiveness. The daily work of creative development, building communications strategies, evaluating and understanding performance, improving, monitoring, briefing. The analogy here was a sheepdog herding a flock of sheep, where the course of the brand has been set and the planners job is to keep it on course. This, said Richard, is when we need to be right.
  2. Periodic disruption: where planners are genuinely charting a new future for a brand, a future that changes a direction, creates new value. This is all about imagination and audacity, and the analogy is Thomas Heatherwick's Olympic cauldron. You don't iterate to get there - this is a creative, intellectually or inspirationally-driven leap. But this is where planners need far more to be interesting than right.

The great skill, said Richard, is in navigating between these two extremes and in being able to change gear and change mode at will. Planners should never restrict themselves to just one of these ways of delivering value. 


Amelia Torode, Chief Strategy Officer, TBWA London, began with something that legendary planner Jon Steele had once said to her:


Jon's point was that in pitches, and when selling in the work planners need to 'read the jury', and bring them with them. As Jon also said, it's not about being right, it's not about being the best, it's about winning. Building on this, Amelia went on to give some great thoughts, peppered with lovely insights from within and outside of the industry, around always remembering that it's about the people. From Jeremy Bullmore's respect for any audience that he spoke to, to Antony Burrell, Sheryl Sandberg, and Oliver Burkeman - all inspiring ways of thinking about career, planning, and life.

Phil Adams, Planning Director, Blonde Digital adeptly decried how unstrategic the planning profession can sometimes be, and championed knowing the difference between good strategy and bad strategy, not confusing strategy, tactics and objectives, and realising that strategy is about making choices. Good planning, said Phil, is purposeful and precise, prosaic and profound. He railed against the poor practice that strategies focused on 'engagement' can lead to (he's banned the word in his team) and possibly had the best slide of the night:


Leo Rayman, Chief Strategy Officer, Grey London had a powerful take on how, inspite of the profession existing in an increasingly left-brain, data-driven world, listening to your gut instinct is so important. Business is a visceral thing. We easily over-emphasise the rational. Yet intuitively, gut instinct can be a powerful direction setter. Planners are not mekons - all head and no gut. The two things are directly connected (via the Vagus nerve) which means that gut instinct can literally be communicated directly to the brain, so we should accept being lost sometimes but believe in our gut. There was an excellent thought about pitches as well (one of my personal favourites) about how you should always close from the gut (about why you really want that business) as it is always more meaningful, powerful and emotional.


Sue Unerman, Chief Strategy Officer, MediaCom did a captivating, erudite talk about the power of karma in life and career (something I also believe in). Sue had some charming, funny and insightful examples of how karma has come into key points in her career, what really motivates people, and how sometimes you just have to draw the line. I loved this: the only person that determines whether you have a bad day at work is you. It's difficult to do justice here to Sue's talk, but it was wonderfully disarming and wise.

Key points in your career was a theme that Candace Kuss, Director of Social at Hill + Knowlton Strategies, also spoke about - describing the reality of overlapping life and work and why that's not necessarily a bad thing, and about the moments of real choice that we all have in our careers and how important they can be. Candace has changed direction several times in her career, and spoke compellingly about these choices and what we should think about when we face these forks. Life is all about choices.


Last up was Andy Nairn, Founding Partner, Lucky Generals, who did a witty, entertaining ten minutes on a piece of advice he first heard from Richard Branson: 'Screw it, let's do it'. When the profession can sometimes get a bit over-ponderous, chin-stroking and inwardly facing, it's good to let go, and bring the fun back in. He railed against how the mantra of 'fail fast' is just not true in most organisations, how data is not a substitute for intuitive decision-making, but instead implored us all to learn from doing, and just start. And there were some lovely examples of bringing this to life through the way in which they've worked with their client Paddy Power.

When I reflected on the event the following day, I was thinking that it could possibly have been our best ever Firestarters. Such was the quality of talks - in turns funny, brilliant, insightful, witty, charming. So my thanks to our excellent speakers, to Google for hosting, and to the many people that came. It was brilliant.

You can view a Storify of the event, and see the Scriberia visualisation in all its glory here. The next Google Firestarters will be in September so if you'd like to ensure you get notified of when registration opens you can sign up for my newsletter for news of that.

Thanks to Jay Kandola for images

Post of the Month - May 2015 - The Vote

Thanks for the nominations everyone. So our vote this month is between:

How Should We Learn? by Danny Crichton

I spent more days on the road the past two years than at home by Darrell Whitelaw

Mobile First from Ben Evans

Marketing Crack: Kicking The Habit by Martin Weigel

Why Mobile First May Already be Outdated from Paul Adams

The Future of Design in Technology by Julie Zhuo

And you can vote below: