Posts Tagged: Misc

The hinge goes both ways

One of my favourite books is by Eric Durschmied, it’s called ‘The Hinge Factor’.
It’s about small events, that changed the course of history.
One of the chapters is called ‘Der Haltebefehl’.
In English that’s ‘The Order To Stop’.
It happened in France in 1940.
The Germans had beaten the French, and the British retreated to Dunkirk.
They sat on the beaches, defenceless, vulnerable, ready to be destroyed.
Guderian’s panzer army was about to kill or capture half a million men.
But, in desperation, a small force of British tanks attacked the German’s flank.
(The flank is the vulnerable part on the sides of an attack.)
Hitler remembered the First World War.
The terror of leaving the flanks exposed to counter-attack.
He ordered his entire army to stop and regroup.
To allow the flanks to be strengthened before they moved on.
So the German army waited.
While they waited the British army was evacuated from Dunkirk.
The army was re-equipped and sent to the Middle East.
Where it beat the Italian army.
So Hitler had to divert an entire German army to the Middle East, to support the Italians.
He also diverted one of his best generals, Rommel.
Equipment and men that would otherwise have been fighting the Russians.
Resources that might have changed the outcome of the war.
But instead, they were sent to fight the army that he let escape at Dunkirk.
So “Der Haltebefehl” is remembered by history as a bad judgement.
A small event that much bigger events hinged upon.
Made by a man who wasn’t looking at the overall picture.
Just allowing one tiny piece to influence his decision, and assume a value out of all proportion to its actual importance.
Because, if we just look at a tiny part of what’s happening through a jeweller’s eyepiece, we miss the big picture.
And if we misunderstand what’s really going on, how it all fits in, we make bad decisions.
That’s how I feel about advertising.
We need to constantly keep the big picture in mind.
Nothing does the entire job on its own.
But if you listen to the new-media gurus, that’s what you’d believe.
That you never need any other form of advertising except online, digital, social-media, anything that comes over your laptop or iPhone.
But is that true?
See, for a successful sale you normally need three things
Awareness. Footfall. Conversion. (Whether actual or metaphorical.)
First off, advertising itself is usually about awareness.
It lets people know your product or brand exists, it piques their interest.
And people can’t buy it unless they know it exists.
Next comes footfall.
Retail is footfall.
If we don’t have a sales outlet, people can’t find it.
So we need to put the customer in the vicinity of the product.
And, once they’ve found it and tried it, the third thing needs to happen.
Conversion.
Point of sale, packaging design, product design, is conversion.
That’s where the rubber meets the road.
Everything up to that point is foreplay.
But new-media advocates don’t see it that way.
They think everyone does the entire process online.
You never need to move from in front of your laptop.
A popup ad makes you aware of something.
So you research it.
You go to Twitter, you go to blogs.
When you’re intrigued you go to the website.
If you’re convinced you click on the ‘purchase’ button.
Then just sit and wait for the your purchase to arrive.
Well, maybe that’s true for Amazon.
I certainly buy books there.
But I buy a lot more books walking around Waterstones.
So not all traditional retail outlets are dead.
Undoubtedly, online is like a virtual shop.
But you still need advertising to make you aware of what’s in the shop.
To drive you there in the first place.
That’s two things advertising does very well in conjunction with online.
Awareness and footfall.
Used intelligently they work very well together.
And understanding how everything fits together allows us to make the best decisions.
The digital revolution will change everyone’s life the way Caxton’s printing press did.
But Caxton’s printing press didn’t stop the need for thinking.
Creativity suddenly had more possibilities than ever.
Advertising was born once the printing press happened.
And advertising grew when newspapers and posters happened.
And grew even more when film, radio, and television happened.
Digital, online, social-media won’t be the death of advertising.
It just means there will be more than ever.
We don’t quite know how we’re going to use it all yet.
But we’ll discover that.
The one great advantage new-media has over traditional media is, it’s free.
The only cost is brains.
If you’ve got brains you can generate massive media coverage from very little.
But that’s always been true.
So we need to stand back and take a look at the big picture.
See where it all fits in, how it works together.

That way we’ll get the right result from the hinge factor.
Not the wrong one.

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HOW MUCH FREEDOM IS TOO MUCH?

Recently I went to lunch with a client.
This is an energetic, intelligent, unconventional person.
We had a really good time exchanging views and ideas.
The only road bump was when we came to discuss The Sun.
And especially page 3.
I’ve always seen The Sun as a bit of harmless fun.
Sort of a grownup comic.
You read it for the jokes but don’t actually take it seriously.
It’s wittier than The Mirror, The Star, The Sport, The News of the World.
And it’s not so whiny or negative as The Mail.
Once or twice a week I’ll find a really good headline in it.
I usually find NEWS IN BRIEFS funny.
This is the little caption over the page 3 nude photo.
It will say something like “Tracy, 23, from Essex think the chancellor’s fiscal policies must take into consideration the viability of necessary levels of debt reduction.”
Obviously the girl herself doesn’t write them.
It’s just standard schoolboy humour: cognitive dissonance.
But the person I was talking to got quite upset.
He said he’d been at a dinner where the Sun’s editor, Rebekah Wade, had been giving a speech.
Talking about how much better things were for women now they had equal opportunity.
He said she couldn’t see how laughably at odds that was with what she was doing in her newspaper.
Showing naked women on page 3, whose sole function was ‘wank material’ for blokes.
He said the ‘News In Briefs’ comments poked fun at women.
Readers were encouraged to laugh at their stupidity.
It made me stop and think.
I never saw it like that.
But it made me check my view of The Sun against my own moral position.
I’ve always believed anything is okay as long as it takes place between the following:
1) Consenting.
2) Adults.
3) In private.
If you tick those three boxes, nothing you do is anyone else’s business.
If you only tick two, that’s not enough.
If you’re both consenting, and adults, but it’s not in private, then that won’t do.
Other people may not want to see whatever you’re doing.
Get a room.
If you’re both consenting, and it’s in private, but you’re not adults, then that won’t do.
You have to be old enough to take responsibility for your actions.
Children can’t do that.
If you’re both adults, and it’s in private, but one of you doesn’t consent, then that won’t do.
That’s called rape.
How does The Sun’s page 3, and ‘News In Briefs’ stack up?
Well, I guess everyone’s consenting.
The girls are being paid, and they’re obviously proud of their bodies.
They want to do it.
And the person looking at it wants to, or they wouldn’t have bought the paper.
Which brings us to the second point.
Is it in private?
Well, to see it, you have to buy a copy of The Sun.
You have to actively choose to participate.
If you don’t want to see it, you buy a different paper.
But you can’t do that with a poster site in the street.
Posters are broadcast media.
So posters have to have a stricter control.
That’s why there are controls on TV programmes, liked the nine o’clock watershed.
So you have a choice.
If you don’t want your children exposed to rude language or bad taste, don’t let them watch TV after nine o’clock.
Which brings us to the third point.
Adults.
Can we be sure everyone who reads The Sun is an adult?
Well no, not really.
So should The Sun be sold on the top shelf, where only adults can reach?
Well, that’s a point for discussion I guess.
Personally I don’t know anyone who buys The Sun for page 3.
Before they started to write ‘News In Briefs’ I don’t know anyone who even looked at it.
If you want naked women there are publications with many more of them in.
Printed in full colour on glossy, easy to wipe clean, stock.
So where does that leave us?
Personally I think The Sun offends Guardian readers.
I don’t quite know why.
The Mail seems to me to be more the Yin to the The Guardian’s Yang.
Both of them see themselves as the protector of moral rectitude.
The Sun is just a bit of fun.
And consequently, sells more than both of them put together.
So is The Sun really responsible for perpetuating a stereotype of women that is actually harmful?
On the one hand, you have a powerful female editor.
And a paper that actively supported Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister.
On the other hand, you’ve got nudes on page 3.
I think the truth is that people who read The Sun don’t really think that deeply.
That’s why they read The Sun.
So maybe the real question is: should people who don’t think deeply be allowed to buy what they want?
I don’t think there’s an easy answer to this.
Jeremy Bentham’s definition of Utilitarianism was “The greatest happiness for the greatest number”.
John Stuart Mill’s problem with this was that, left to their own devices, ordinary people may be happy living like pigs.
And his view was, “It’s better to be Shakespeare and miserable, than a pig and happy.”
Which doesn’t really answer either of the questions.
Point one: is The Sun’s page 3 (and ‘News In Briefs’) really harmful?
Point two: if it is, should something be done about it?

What makes a pronouncement difficult is something else Mill said, “Your freedom to do as you please ends one inch in front of my nose.”

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Advertising is the Discovery Channel

My wife likes to relax watching the Cookery Channel.
When I get the remote, I switch to Discovery.
Or the History Channel, or the Military Channel, or How Things Work.
One of us ends up watching TV in the front room.
The other one has to watch the TV in the kitchen.
Unless they make a programme called, ‘Great Meals Cooked In Panzer Tanks’ we can’t watch TV together.
She can’t understand why I watch so many documentaries.
The thing is, like most blokes, I love to learn stuff.
Blokes love information.
It’s the male version of gossip.
Listen to blokes in pubs.
Whatever the subject they’re talking about, at least half the conversation will start, “Did you know….”.
It’s like the scene in Gregory’s Girl.
Two young guys are waiting at a bus stop discussing how to chat up girls.
Eventually a girl comes along to wait for the bus.
One of the guys turns to her and says, “Did you know that, when you sneeze, the air comes out of your nose faster than the speed of sound? That’s why you make a noise, it breaks the sound barrier.”
The girl is bored and turns away.
Whereas I’m thinking, “I didn’t know that, that’s really interesting.”
What I love about advertising is it’s like The Discovery Channel.
You get paid to find out new stuff.
I’ve worked on loads of beers and talked to lots of head brewers.
Did you know that every beer in the world must chemically recreate one of 4 water sources before they can brew it?
If it’s stout, it’s Liffey.
If it’s dark lager, it’s Munchen.
If it’s pale lager, it’s Pilsen.
If it’s ale, it’s Burton.
Isn’t that fascinating?
I’ve worked on lots of cars and talked to lots of different technical guys.
Did you know a boxer engine is the only engine that can give you a 4WD in-line drive train?
Because it’s low enough to go in front of the front axle.
An upright or V-engine would make the bonnet too high.
I’ve worked on loads of confectionary and talked to the guys who taste and buy the raw materials.
Do you know English people prefer their chocolate to have slightly ‘cheesy’ taste?
So that’s what buyers look for when they buy cocoa beans.
Which is why our chocolate tastes sweeter than other countries’?
And that’s just the client end.
How about planning?
If you haven’t got a massive P&G size budget how do you reach the massive target market?
Did you know the difference between demographics and psychographics means you can use opinion formers to create a trickle-down effect.
It’s not as hard as it sounds.
Like anything on Discovery Channel, it’s just about lifting up the bonnet and seeing which bit goes where.
Even the most complicated engine works on the same basic principles.
How about the film production process?
Did you know a movie camera uses the same 35mm stock that you use in a standard SLR?
But, instead of going through the camera sideways, it goes top down.
So every frame is half what it would be on a stills camera.
Which means every lens is half what it would be on a stills camera.
When you know that it’s simple.
If you want the effect you’d get with a 28mm lens on your camera, you use a 14mm lens on a film camera.
All this is stuff you wouldn’t learn in any other job.
Because no other job gives you access to so many different disciplines.
And the right to question everybody about their job.
Because the more you learn about their job, the better you can do your job.
With any other job, you just do the same job ever day.
Here, you’re writing a script, doing a voice-over recording, choosing music, going on a photo shoot, overseeing a film set, learning about editing, learning animation.
And all of that is before you come anywhere near learning all the other disciplines in our business.
Strategic thinking, planning and research, traditional media, social media.
All of which is before you come anywhere near learning anything about clients’ business for new business pitches.
Technology, fashion, retail, charitable, financial, medical, automotive.
And learning about how people work.
Sexual differences, racial differences, social and class differences, regional differences, attitudinal differences.
All you need is an enquiring mind.
And the desire to take complicated things and make them simple.

If you’ve got those two things, this isn’t work.
It’s paid fun.

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ALL ADVERTISING IS TRADE ADVERTISING

When I started work as a junior copywriter at BMP, I got given the work no one else wanted to do.
That’s the way it is in any job.
You work your way up, you serve your apprenticeship.
If it was a factory, I’d have been sweeping floors.
If it was a football team, I’d have been cleaning boots.
If it was the army, I’d have been swabbing-out toilets.
There’s a good reason for that.
You learn the job absolutely from the ground up.
Later on, when you’re in charge, nobody can tell you a job can’t be done.
You know if it can or can’t be done, because you’ve done it.
If worse comes to worst, you can do it yourself.
So there’s a really good reason to start at the bottom.
For us the bottom was trade ads.
Ads that don’t run in consumer media.
Ads that your mum and friends won’t see.
Ads that tell the retailers why they should stock your client’s product.
And here’s why.
Because the most important part of the link between factory and consumer is the stockist.
If no one stocks it, no one can buy it.
It’s that simple.
But if retailers stock and display your product, it will sell.
Even without any advertising, it will sell.
Maybe not much, but it will sell.
Just by being displayed.
So the first, most important job, as far as the client’s concerned, is to get the trade to stock it.
That’s why we were given so many trade ads to do.
One of the first jobs I always got was the four-page leaflet.
This would either run in trade magazines: The Grocer, Hardware Trade Journal, Electrical Retail Trader, etc.
Or it would be carried around by the sales force.
To show to the retailer, when they tried to get them to stock the product.
The leaflet was usually divided into three parts.
The front cover was what made the product different and/or better than the competition (a reason to stock).
The inside spread was about how fast sales were growing (why the stockist would make money).
And the back cover was about how much advertising it was going to be supported by.
Usually some stills from the commercial(s) and a line about ‘Backed by our new multi-million pound TV campaign’.
Because, if it had advertising support, retailers were more likely to stock it.
They could see it would have big money behind it.
But, more importantly, they thought their customers would see it.
So the biggest part about consumer advertising was to persuade the trade to stock the product.
Usually we did these ads even before the commercials were shot.
The lead times for the magazines were a lot longer than for TV.
So we couldn’t even use stills from the ads.
We’d have to mock-up a packshot.
But it didn’t matter.
The trade didn’t care what the advertising was.
Just how much was being spent.
That was the great lesson for me.
It didn’t matter how creative the advertising was.
What mattered was that they were going to have advertising.
They were going to be supported by a multi-million pound campaign.
That’s pretty sobering isn’t it.
The main job of advertising is to get the product stocked.
Think of that while the art director is throwing a hissy fit about the client choosing the wrong typeface
While the copywriter is sulking that the client chose the wrong music.
While the director is horrified that the client chose the wrong cut.
While all that’s going on.
And while everyone knows that their personal area of skill is crucial to the success or failure of the campaign.
The most important factor in selling the product isn’t the quality of the ads.
It’s the fact that there is any advertising at all.
Because that’s what makes the stockist stock it.
If they don’t stock it, it won’t sell.
If they stock it, it will.

Kind of puts our job into a bit more perspective, doesn’t it?

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THE INTUITIVE LEAP

I was listening to a journalist on the radio.
She was talking about when she just started out, in 1990.
She’d been sent to interview Richard Branson in LA.
She took lots of notes, and he was polite and helpful as they chatted by the pool.
After she finished the interview, she said, “Look I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t ask you this. But if you were young and just starting out, like me, and looking for a business opportunity, and you didn’t have much money, what would you invest in?”
Richard Branson just looked slowly around the pool.
Eventually he said, “Look at those umbrella shaped heaters there, I bet you haven’t seen many of those around?”
She said, “You’re right, I haven’t.”
He said, “Well, here’s a thought then. The weather’s a lot colder in Europe than it is in LA. I bet café owners would love to buy those. They could serve customers outdoors for another month or so every year.
They’d make more money.”
She said, “What a great thought. What should I do?”
He said, “Well, they probably only sell them in LA at present.
Why don’t you find out who makes them and ask if you can buy the import rights for Europe. They shouldn’t cost much.”
The reporter said she called up the company and, sure enough, they’d only recently started making them.
She asked how much they wanted for the import rights for Europe.
They thought for a bit and said, “How about ten thousand dollars, would that be okay?”
And she went away to think about it.
She said, “At that time ten thousand dollars was about seven thousand pounds. Which was pretty much all I had in the bank.
So I thought I’d better not risk it, and I forgot about it.
But now, whenever I travel anywhere I see those heated-umbrellas absolutely everywhere.
I asked our business correspondent what he thought the European import rights would be worth.
He said millions and millions.”
So there you go.
That’s the difference between someone like Richard Branson and the rest of us.
He can spot an opportunity, we can’t
Richard Branson made an intuitive leap.
He didn’t commission: “A Survey To Study The Possibilities And Potential Opportunities For External-Heater Sales In Various European Countries, Demarcated By Types Of Business, Location, Regional Differences, Demographic Variations, And Attitudinal Preferences.”
He didn’t do that.
He made an intuitive leap.
He used his judgement.
He figured a few thousand dollars was a fair price to pay for the potential opportunity.
If he won, he’d win big.
If he lost, he’d lose small.
So his response was the same as the title of his autobiography, “Screw It, Let’s Do It.”
People like Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, and Rupert Murdoch don’t depend on experts to tell them what to do.
As William Randolph Hearst said, “I don’t hire expert to tell me what to do. I hire experts to tell me how to do what I want to do.”
What we call creativity is actually that intuitive leap.
And we won’t find that by running to focus groups.
Sure we can use research to check that we’re not doing anything stupid.
Research (Quant or Qual) is like the dashboard on a car.
Very useful in telling us the state of play.
Very useful in giving us information.
But it can’t do the driving for us.
It can’t take the decisions.
It’s no good looking to research for creative thinking.

As Akio Morita said, “The biggest assistance I had, in growing Sony to a worldwide brand, was the total failure of nerve on the part of western businessmen to move without research.”

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THE BATTLE OF CREATIVITY

In 1939 the German ship Graf Spee was loose in the Atlantic Ocean.
This ship was designed to sink British merchant ships.
She did it effortlessly.
The British sent 3 ships to find and attack her.
It wasn’t really a fair fight.
The three British ships were smaller and older than the Graf Spee.
Two of the British ships, The Ajax and The Achilles, had six-inch guns as their main armament.
The Graf Spee had six-inch guns as her secondary armament.
True, the elderly British cruiser, Exeter, had eight-inch guns as her main armament.
But the Graf Spee had eleven-inch guns as her main armament.
Graf Spee was bigger, faster, more powerful, and more modern.
The Graf Spee’s main guns could hit the British ships before they even got in range.
And that’s what she did.
Sensibly enough she picked off the biggest British ship first.
As the British ships chased the Graf Spee, she pounded the Exeter almost to bits.
Eventually The Exeter was near sinking and had to break off.
Now The Graf Spee was free to attack Ajax and Achilles easily.
But instead her captain took her to Montevideo.
This was a neutral port, and the ship was allowed a short time for repairs.
Meanwhile the two smaller British ships waited outside the port.
Everyone guessed they were waiting for a much larger British fleet
Obviously the British couldn’t let The Graf Spee get away.
And the Germans had a spy who intercepted a secret message.
It was from the British embassy requesting hundreds of thousands of tons of fuel oil at short notice.
Enough for a fleet of battleships and aircraft carriers.
So the German captain knew he had a choice.
Come out and be blown to bits, or surrender.
He chose neither.
He took his ship out into The River Plate.
He sank it, and shot himself.
Rather than face the massive British naval force.
What he didn’t know was that there weren’t any massive British naval force.
The message from the British embassy was a fake.
Meant to be intercepted and cracked.
What was actually waiting outside the harbour was the two much smaller British cruisers.
The ones he’d already effectively beaten before he entered Montevideo harbour.
So it wasn’t the Royal navy that beat The Graf Spee.
It was allowing someone to believe what they wanted to believe.
It was helping them to beat themselves.
It was taking advantage of a situation.
It was turning a disadvantage into an advantage.
Just the way Bill Bernbach did with Volkswagen and Avis.
The way Charlie Saatchi did with British Airways.
The way Ed McCabe did with Volvo.
The way David Abbott did with The Economist.
The way truly creative people look at a problem and see an opportunity.

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NEW IS THE ENEMY OF GREAT

All advertising agencies prioritise the urgent over the important.
We can’t help it, it’s instinctive.
What must be done ‘right now’ takes precedence.
And the truly important has to wait until it’s also urgent.
In the same way we tend to prioritise anything new.
Novelty takes precedence over the familiar.
Whatever it is.
I’ve lived in London all my life.
So I barely even see it anymore.
I take it for granted, like water to a fish.
For instance, the CST offices are next to Tower Bridge.
So every morning I walk past The Tower of London and hardly notice it.
Most of us live our lives like this.
We never notice anything unless our attention is drawn to it.
A few years ago, my wife’s sister was visiting us from Singapore.
I took her to a small concert in The Tower Of London.
It was on a Friday evening after it was closed.
The Tower has a very different feeling when it isn’t packed with tourists.
When you’re alone in it.
Suddenly you can feel the history seeping out of the walls.
Especially at twilight.
It was a tiny concert, to celebrate the memorial where beheadings took place in The Tower grounds.
Strangely, there are less than a dozen of these.
Commoners were beheaded on nearby Tower Hill.
Only nobility were executed inside The Tower itself.
First we looked at the place where they’d had their heads hacked from their bodies.
People like Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey.
It was right in front of the tiny Tudor houses where they’d spent their last days.
We walked where they must have walked, between the houses and the chopping block.
And we stood where they spent their last moments on earth.
Then we went into a small nearby chapel, built by Henry VIII.
This is where the concert took place.
It was sung by The Queen’s Choir, just acapella voices, no instruments.
The intricate, mournful harmonies echoed against the stone walls of the little chapel.
And under our feet, in the chapel, were buried the bones of those who’d been beheaded.
As their crime was treason, they weren’t allowed formal graves.
And the music we were listening to was what they’d written immediately before their executions.
Their death songs.
One was written by one of Henry VIII’s Queens.
Proclaiming her loyalty to him, and asking his subjects to love him.
Written while Henry was signing her death warrant.
Another was written by the brother of one of his Queens.
Who Henry accused of incest with his sister.
As an excuse to behead both of them.
In the same place, Henry had imprisoned the mother of a Bishop.
The Bishop fled to France rather than swear loyalty to Henry over The Pope.
So Henry had his mother beheaded.
But the mother tried to run.
And she was hacked as she ran, and beheaded where she fell.
Another was Sir Thomas Moore.
Who also refused to recognise Henry’s authority over The Pope.
After his beheading he was sanctified by The Catholic Church in Rome.
So, under our feet were the bones of, amongst others, two Queens and a Saint.
We were listening to their music, their last creative act on earth.
Walking where they last walked.
Breathing where they last breathed.
And then we came out into the Tower at night.
And we walked around and through the dark and empty place.
The history crackled like electricity.
Cruelty and torture and death everywhere.
I tried hard to imagine what it must have felt like.
I tried to put myself in their place.
But of course, I couldn’t.
And it reminded me of the title of Damien Hirst’s shark in a tank.
“The Impossibility Of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living”
Eventually we left The Tower of London, and went out into the bright lights of the city.
The next morning I was walking to work again, past the Tower.
The sun was up and it was a tourist attraction again.
Parents dragging children round an old building they didn’t want to see.
Trying to find ice cream and cola.
And I passed a group of Japanese tourists outside their hotel.
A big, anonymous, modern brick building opposite the Tower of London.
They were smiling and posing for a photograph.

The photographer had his back to The Tower of London, and was taking their picture in front of their hotel.

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Editor’s blog: Two-speed Europe gets into gear

As the Germans look ship-shape, Greece’s finances are in a worse state than ever. What does that it all mean for us?

So Germany confirms its position this morning as Europe’s top economic machine. (Not that any sensible individual doubted this for one moment even during the maelstrom of the last 3 years.) . In the second quarter its GDP zoomed ahead by a remarkable 2.2% There hasn’t been a faster rate of growth than this since reunification back in 1990. Punters worldwide are back in the market for BMWs – which had some cracking sales figures out this week – and Germany’s other high value manufactured goods. And they’ve got a half way decent football team for the first time in years.

But there is far less good news from what those Euro economists term the ‘peripheral’ nations. Even less charitable individuals insist on referring to them as the PIIGS (Portugal Ireland Italy Greece Spain) Growth in the sty is pitiful.

The Greeks are enduring the agony of major downturn at the moment and face the prospect of a prolonged slump. The Greek statistical service – never the most accurate with its use of the abacus in the first place – reckons that the Greek economy shrunk by 3.5% in the three months to the end of June. The Athens regime hasn’t been helped by the country’s truckers spending weeks manning the barricades. These stats are truly grim because the second half of the Greek year – when few wish to stretch out on a rainy beach in Mykonos – is normally much quieter when it comes to collecting other people’s Euros to fill the hard pressed Finance Ministry’s coffers.

The fact that the Germans are saving at an unprecedented rate rather than spending their Euros is bad news for everyone else. The towels are staying at home, so to speak. The only question for them remains how much of their war chest they are prepared to sacrifice propping up the Euro and its miscreant members in the periphery.

Equally concerning is the plight of Ireland where the government continues to have to pay sky high interest rates for the bonds it issues to remain solvent. The comparative yield on these bonds came very close to a record difference between those issued in Dublin and those from Berlin earlier this week. This means the investor-confidence gap between Germany and Ireland is growing again.

This really is worrying because Ireland has endured a huge amount of pain already after profound cuts. The assumption was that this lipo-suction would make the patient better. But it doesn’t appear to have done in the eyes of investors. It just appears to have left the patient weakened, vulnerable and with a lot of spare flesh sagging around the waistband.

So where does this leave us Brits? Up with the Deutsch or down with the PIGS? Well, we’re about to head for the slab Irish- style this Autumn as the scalpel gets to work. We still like to think we’re an economic class above the peripherals and we can, unlike them, still devalue our currency to make us more competitive. The systemic meltdown has maybe avoided but we’ve got some serious glums to endure for a while yet. I’m off on hols to see how the Italians are coping. See you in September.

Read more on Editor’s blog: Two-speed Europe gets into gear…

PRECONCEPTIONS DICTATE REALITY

Jack Stevens is a copywriter.
He’s a funny guy.
He used to work at Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow.
This was London’s most fashionable agency at the time.
(Think of Fallon, Wieden, Mother, that sort of thing.)
Like all of these, it was surrounded by mystique.
Because Jack was there, all his friends wanted to know what it was like.
So, sitting in the pub, they used to cross-question him.
What were Mark Denton and Chris Palmer really like to work for?
They’d heard they were a couple of crazy creatives.
Was the whole agency weird and eccentric?
What really happened there?
So Jack told them.
“Mark and Chris have a big fish tank in the centre of the creative department.
When we have a brief to crack, we all sit in a circle round the fish tank.
They give each fish a number.
Then they write all the numbers on a sheet of paper with a different word by each number.
Then Mark and Chris point to a fish at random.
Whatever number that fish is, that’s the number of the word that the department has to work on, that’s the brief.”
I said to Jack, don’t tell me your mates fell for that.
He was laughing his socks off.
He said, “They lapped it up mate. Couldn’t get enough of it.”
Hard to credit anyone would believe that isn’t it?
And yet.
Murray Chick had been working at Ogilvy.
He was one of the best planners in London, and he joined GGT as Head of Planning.
When he joined he hadn’t met me.
But he’d heard a lot of stories.
I was a Buddhist, a vegetarian, a teetotaller, with a group of brain washed followers, generally a bit of an all-round nutcase.
Naturally, he was a bit wary.
So he waited a few days before coming down to the creative floor.
When he did, he came round the corner and stopped.
Murray saw us holding a séance in the middle of the creative department.
Standing silently, in a circle, with our heads bowed and our hands clasped in prayer in front of us.
That proved everything he’d heard.
So he backed away and didn’t come near the creative department for weeks.
Eventually he found out what we’d actually been doing.
We were playing ‘Spoof’.
The same thing we did every morning.
Spoofing to see who went out to the Italian café to get the cappuccinos.
In Spoof, everyone gathers in a circle.
Then you hold your closed hand out in front of you.
You can each hold between 0 and 3 coins in your hand.
One-by-one, you each have to guess the total number of coins everyone is holding.
After each round the one who guesses correctly drops out.
The last one left in is the loser.
They have to go and get the cappuccinos.
We took it fairly seriously.
Well, no one wants to walk through Soho carrying up to a dozen cappuccinos.
Especially not when the entire creative department is hanging out the window, watching and jeering.
And playing Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walking” on loudspeakers.
So we were each concentrating really hard on working out the answer.
Part calculation, part intuition.
A bit like poker.
But not quite the same as a séance of brainwashed followers.
But of course it didn’t look like that to Murray.

The mind makes the evidence fit its preconceptions.

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QUESTION THE QUESTION

Look at the top row of letters on your keyboard.
Reading from the left they are Q W E R T Y.
Have you ever wondered why they aren’t A B C D E F…etc?
Well, it’s all because of the way typewriters were invented around 1870.
The keys were connected to long pieces of metal that each had a letter on the end.
When you hit a particular key it raised that letter.
The letter banged onto an inky ribbon and onto the paper.
And that letter got printed.
Now originally typewriter keys were arranged alphabetically.
The problem was that some typists were really fast.
This meant the metal arms were flying up too quickly and getting jammed.
Fast typists were constantly having to unjam their keys.
So the people who made typewriters looked for a solution.
They couldn’t find a mechanical way to speed the typewriters up.
So they did the opposite.
They found a way to slow the typists down.
They put the most commonly used letters in the hardest to get places.
They actually designed the keyboard to be as inefficient as possible.
Which is why your keyboard starts QWERTY and not ABCDEF.
And it worked.
Typists were slowed down.
And typewriters stopped jamming.
But.
As the technology improved typewriters became electric.
In fact, with the IBM ‘Golfball’, there were no individual arms with keys on.
There was nothing to jam.
But the keyboard always stayed QWERTY.
Even though we don’t even have typewriters anymore.
We have laptops.
No keys, no ink, no moving parts at all.
So now we don’t need to slow anyone down.
Now everyone can type at top speed without fear of anything jamming.
But the keyboard is still QWERTY.
Why is that?
Why don’t we have the most efficient keyboard layout on our modern laptops?
Why do we still have a purposely inefficient layout, designed over a hundred years ago to slow typing down?
I think it’s because we can’t be bothered.
No one’s ever questioned it, so one ever questions it.
In fact no one even notices it.
Everyone just goes along with it.
How much of that do you think there is in our lives?
Things that we don’t question.
We accept them because that’s the way they’ve always been.
So it must be right.
Meanwhile we all, me included, carry on typing on our metaphorical QWERTY keyboard.
Take what we’re given.
At best we might grumble.
But that’s about it.
Our life is like sitting in a restaurant being shown the menu and choosing from the range of options available.
We never question the options.
We never decide what we want without looking at the menu.
We let our choices be dictated to us.
Whether by other people.
Or by circumstances.
Or complacency.
It could be a lot of things.
But one thing it isn’t.

Creative.

Read more on QUESTION THE QUESTION…