Archive for May, 2015

“I’d like to work in advertising. Can you help me get a job?”

Friday, May 29th, 2015

You must have heard this more than once.  As the summer milk round kicks off the requests from graduates will begin to escalate.  Dave Trott, years ago, wrote a definitive guide “How to get a job in advertising” which includes the memorable advice :”99% of people trying to get a job believe they are whiz kids… unless you realise that you do not at present know any more about advertising than your mother, you are no use to a good agency.”  He goes on to point out that your mother might in fact be more useful as she probably buys more of the products that are advertised than you do.

So referring job seekers to Dave’s guide is of course a good place to start.  So is a job application letter written half a millennium ago.

Back in the 1480s Leonardo da Vinci applied for a job at the court of the ruler of Milan.  It is an utterly brilliant letter constructed on the basis of what he can offer Ludovico Sforza, not on the basis of what he, Leonardo, would like to do (I’ve assumed that he is quite keen on art).

Assuming then that da Vinci had a bit of an interest in drawing and painting we can notice that he doesn’t even mention his skills in this area until the end of his letter : “Likewise in painting, I can do everything possible as well as any other”.  It is almost an afterthought.

The thrust of his application is specifically tailored to what he, and only he, can offer to make Sforza’s personal objectives more attainable.

These include plans for portable bridges with which you can either pursue or flee the enemy; several portable types of cannon; “an infinite number of items for attack and defence”.

The letter, which is printed as part of a brilliant collection Letters of Note by Shaun Usher, stands as a fantastic guide to anyone aspiring to a new job.  Don’t dive in with what you are good at.  Work out what the business needs and be specific about how you can fulfil those needs better than anyone.  By all means talk about your core skills too, but only framed in the context of their needs.  I have spoken to more than one prospective advertising candidate who – when asked what advertising they think is good and why – can only mention Nike, because it has footballers they like in it.

That’s if they can think of any advertising at all.

Da Vinci concludes his letter with two excellent points.  First he applies his talents in art specifically to Sforza like this :”moreover, work could be undertaken on the bronze horse which will be to the immortal glory and eternal honour of the auspicious memory of his Lordship your father and of the illustrious house of Sforza”.  Nice use of flattery, appeal to family values.  Finally he offers proof points :”if any of the above-mentioned things seem impossible… I am most readily disposed to demonstrate them in your park”.  Always be prepared to walk the walk, right here, right now.





Two nations DOOH

Friday, May 15th, 2015

“I want to bring our country together, our United Kingdom together…to reclaim a mantle that we should never have lost – the mantle of One Nation, One United Kingdom.”.  So said David Cameron on the day of the elections results.


Well in one way we are definitely already two nations.


If you flick through Media Week’s triumphant 30th anniversary issue in print then in the back section there are a series of features from media agencies and media owners.  In the latter, digital out of home dominates with highly optimistic outlooks described by Clear Channel’s Chris Pelekanou, Exterion Media’s Shaun Gregory, Outdoor Plus’ Jonathan Lewis and Talon Outdoor’s Eric Newnham.


According to these champions of Digital Out of Home the landscape will be awash with ‘Minority Report’ style personalisation of messages.  For broader campaigns the right time, right message and right segment accuracy of communications should improve out of home effectiveness and accountability in spades.

Shaun Gregory writes “The rise of digital out of home has been one of the most explosive industry game changers todate.”


If you live in a city that is.


For the two nations that definitely exist out there are those living with exposure to digital out of home and those who are not.  It’s yet another way in which it is very different outside the urban sprawl, and once again your experience as a media practitioner in London is irrelevant to the experience of significant parts of the UK.


A huge amount of investment is due before the full potential of DOOH to effectively drive a national campaign for a household brand is truly realised.  In addition audience data will need to be more immediate and more accurate.  The best campaigns will be served dynamically based on streams of data available with specific information from mobile networks.  The effectiveness of the outcomes of these campaigns will need equally accurate and transparent data.


At the close of last year I was one of the judges of the Campaign City Street Live Challenge where two creative teams were pitched against each other to create an ad campaign that made the most of the exciting new tech embedded in multipoint touchscreens.  It was really interesting, but for me, incredibly hard to judge.  Not just because the two ideas were so different.  Because as a media planner I really wanted to understand the metrics in order to have an informed opinion about which campaign should win.  For one reason or another (outcomes unclear, detail not comparable, sample sizes small) this proved very difficult.


To truly fulfil the potential which we can all imagine, there is a huge amount of work that the outdoor industry needs to undertake.  Can Britain’s Digital Out of Home bring our nation back together?  How long will the investment into national digital outdoor take?  Will the data about audience outcomes become available in real time to planners and data analysts so that we can truly have a currency comparable with other media?  And if so when?




The Loch Ness Monster Media Test

Monday, May 11th, 2015

It’s an increasing problem for media practitioners: how do we tell the difference between new technologies/brands/products/platforms that  are short-term fads, and those that will establish themselves as long-term staples of our lifestyles and cultures.

To help us all do this, I propose the Loch Ness monster test.

On May 2 1933, 82 years ago last week, Alex Campbell, a part time journalist for the Inverness Courier, coined the phrase Loch Ness Monster.

A flurry of stories followed, a first photograph was published in December of that year and the coverage of sightings of the creature has been ebbing and flowing ever since, most recently when Google used Google Street View to allow us all to have a good look for proof of its existence (sort of anyway) this April.


You can of course follow the Loch Ness Monster on Twitter : @realnessie if you wish (s/he must have a waterproof Sony Xperia, an iphone would never last in the largest and second deepest Loch in Scotland).

So how does Nessy help us to sort the technological breakthroughs that will last from the short-term wonders?

I firmly believe that the successful application of technology is dependent on it tapping in to a fundamental human need that does not and has not changed.  Media Week celebrated 30 years last week with the first print edition for years.  It made me reflect that during my career there’s been loads of change, lots of innovation which the consumer has adopted.  Yet their needs, desires, wants and emotions are unchanging.  The very clever tech and media developments feed on them and thrive because of it.

Clearly, the Loch Ness Monster story has survived so long because it too feeds into our needs, desires, wants and emotions. So we can use it as a benchmark to test how well new tech and media will do. My hypothesis is that if we can imagine that any new medium or tech would have been a key player in the spread of Nessy stories if it had been around 82 years ago, then it’s probably going to thrive and survive.

To illustrate what I mean, let’s take one example of a medium that has established itself at the heart of many of our lives. According to my theory, therefore, it should pass the Nessy test. And it doesn’t take more than a moment to realize that it does – with flying colours.

Twitter of course taps into our enormous human drive to show each other what we have found that we found interesting and to share our humour, our disappointments and our delight with our connections.


Nessie news has been delighting us since the 1930s.  I can clearly remember as a child the excitement in the mid-1970s when a lifesizemodel of a seductive female Nessie (with giant feminine eyelashes obviously made to flutter) was launched into the Loch with the intention of luring the monster to the surface.


82 years ago or now news of a genuine Nessie sighting would spread like wildfire across Twitter.


Does the fact that no very recent pictures of Nessie or the Abominable Snowman or Big Foot have reached my Twitter feed mean that I should stop believing ?  Does the instant nature of communication about “What’s happening” take the longevity and the magic out of the Cryptids ?

Not in the slightest.  Keep checking – any day now – don’t miss it.