Archive for August, 2022

“The past has a vote, not a veto”

Monday, August 15th, 2022

The world has changed, but the way that we operate in many spheres has not changed enough.

Not enough systematic change.  This is true of many sectors, including advertising.

Not enough change.  It’s true of fiscal policy according to Conservative Party leadership candidate Liz Truss.  She’s advocating tax cuts, arguing that the Treasury has outdated views on what works in stimulating the economy. 

Not enough change.  It’s true that this is one of the barriers to inclusion, equity and belonging.  Newer tech has been shown to carry the prejudice of the past when algorithms endorse the biases of old.  As algorithms invisibly permeate our world constant vigilance is crucial.  Our children need to learn to be as aware of this as they grow up in a world where their preferences are always reinforced potentially manipulated.  We need to teach our children well in this respect.

Not enough change.  There’s a catch 22 that may be familiar to many when innovation is requested but meets with an additional requirement that it is proven to work from past experience.  An impossible conundrum. 

Crucially we are in danger of continuing to follow the advertising rules of thumb or heuristics of the past in a world that we know has changed irrevocably.

I was delighted to share a stage in late July at the Odeon on Shaftesbury Avenue in London with global ceo of creative systems Stef Calcraft.  We had invited guests from across marketing and media to join us for our curation of Cannes Lions winners on the Big Screen.   Describing a new era of creativity Stef said: “The world has changed, and the people we need to connect with have changed too.  Our job is to understand what matters to them most, what they really care about, and give them more of what they want and more of what they need.  If we can do this, we’ll be more successful than ever before.”  Yet so much thinking is stuck in old paradigm, pre-internet thinking.  We must transform how we work and how we create to build platforms and ideas that truly make a difference in todays transformed world.  Back to Stef: “We have entered a new creative era where the ideas we create can be more purposeful, more powerful, and inherently more active than ever before. We are all privileged to have this opportunity.”

This isn’t a return to the so-called “golden age” of full-service agencies.  (Unlike many people I remember that era and it was mostly not a golden age for media, which was often sidelined.)  

This is the creation of a new way of working that harnesses the brand truth, the consumer reality and cultural relevance.  Its hard to change.  Its hard to throw off the shackles of the past.  Yet this we must now do.

One of the great Jewish thinkers Mordecai Kaplan, a man who played a huge role in adapting Jewish religious practices for the modern era said this: “The past has a vote, but not a veto”.  We need to pay respect to the past but not let it limit how we work today.

Its great to have perspective on past success, its important to incorporate the lessons of experience, but it is more crucial to be open to new ways of working to drive success in this complex world.  A golden age, for creativity.

Why our industry could do with being a bit more Wimbledon

Monday, August 1st, 2022

Serena practicing at Wimbledon. Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

A new film about John McEnroe was released as this year’s Wimbledon tennis tournament came to a close, which prompted me to think a bit about tennis.

McEnroe is famous of course for being outspoken.  In a corporate world some people find speaking bluntly can be difficult.  McEnroe’s view was that he was the “normal” one on the tennis court: “What I’ve always thought about myself is that I’m more like the normal guy than Björn is,” he goes on. “Björn’s the freak that could go out there and not change his expression for four hours. I’m the normal guy that gets frustrated on the court and expresses himself.”

He believed in winning at any cost, but goes on to say however that 37 therapists didn’t help him really be normal.

Is anyone who is world beating entirely “normal”?  Not by definition. 

Is it possible to win without ranting?  Yes of course. 

Has psyching out your opponent become common practice?  Yes of course.

Can you give robust feedback without upsetting people?  Undoubtedly, and here’s one highly successful contributor to my book, with co-author Kathryn Jacob OBE, The Glass Wall, success strategies for women at work and businesses that mean business explaining how to give criticism so that it is well received: “Above all, I am authentic. I would say that what I do is the Shit Sandwich. I’m quite nice to people, I try and be understanding and empathetic and listen, but it doesn’t stop me from confronting what’s wrong. Nice, and then I’ll be horrible. But then I’ll say I love you, let’s have lunch. I get furious, but then I say, it’s only work, there are important things, let’s make friends.”

However, this is not how we should be more Wimbledon.

And its not by eating more strawberries and cream, or drinking more Pimms.

We should be more Wimbledon by adopting the rule of the second serve.

The genius of the tennis game lies in the second serve.

What other game, or profession, authorises you to make your best shot and have no worry about failure?

In tennis every player can shoot for the moon with their first serve, with no anxiety at all about it missing. 

Imagine how much more interesting to my mind (apologies to the purists) penalty shoot outs would be under these rules where every shooter would get two shots at goal. 

Imagine what this would do to our education system if a brave go was written into some subjects.

Think how you would feel in a pitch or answering a client brief if the rule was to go twice – first you shoot for the moon, then you give a safety shot.

Of course, we all have the option to give a range of solutions.  But that’s different, that’s about options not about ambition.   The Second Serve rule should be baked in, and I would recommend to any client giving a brief today that they try this as a mandatory and see what that does to the responses.

Our industry is transforming thanks to the advent (finally) of great AI and automation.  Efficient automation levels the playing field in mature markets, and means that competitive advantage lies in those businesses that fuel differentiation with creativity.

The second serve rule can transform that creativity.