LEON JACOBS

Filtering by Tag: advertising

What Manchester United's approach to recruitment can teach the ad industry

Added on by Leon Jacobs.

Sir Alex Ferguson is leaving his job as Man United's manager after 27 years (and one piece of gum - some say). He is without a doubt one of the most successful coaches in the history of football. Thanks to his genius, Man United has transformed into a global brand.

How do you replace a rock like that? Do you hire someone with a track record? Lots of trophies? A media rockstar? José Mourinho?

Man United has placed its hopes on David Moyes, the 50-year old Everton manager. They signed a six year contract for his services.

Some analysis suggests that Moyes was favoured because he shares the same coaching philosophy as Sir Alex. They even hail from the same corner of Scotland.

Man United has a much lower transfer bill than most clubs their size. And Moyes is known too for doing very much with very little at Everton. So, there is every indication that he will continue to build on this tradition at Old Trafford.

In advertising, when big personalities leave successful agencies, how often are they replaced with the José Mourinhos of the creative industry?

I have almost never been asked any of the following crucial questions during interviews for creative directing jobs:

  • What is your approach to budget split in the creative department? Ratio of senior to junior creatives?
  • What do you think has made us successful and what skills do you possess to build on this?

Too often, creative directors are hired for what they have achieved in other agencies - where, let's face it - the conditions were perfect for genius to strike. Great work never happens in a vacuum. There are loads of people with different skill-sets who all pour their hearts into the project at the exact right time. The creative director, the person at the end of the line gets the recognition and gets poached by a struggling agency who wants some of that magic - never realising that every great CD is surrounded by great people (sometimes through his own doing, and mostly those will be good creative, but the best work relies on good suits and planners). Inevitably, those agencies end up disappointed, often the relationship sours and a chunk of faith in the power of creativity is taken from everyone.

Any agency who wants the wind of great ideas to drive it to greatness, need to look deeper than a pretty face.

They need to do what Man United just did.

Keeping advertising out of journalism

Added on by Leon Jacobs.

As somebody who works in advertising, I fully support Andrew Sullivan's point of view in his concerns about the dangers of journalism fusing with advertising:

We are reaching a point at which there will be many fewer actual media companies, and more and more companies which learn to mimic what used to be journalism in order to sell their products. We’ve gone from advertizing supporting journalism to journalism supporting corporate propaganda. At the rate we’re going, as the line between church and state is deliberately blurred by desperate media companies, we may end up with a handful of actual independent online magazines and newspapers and a vast industry of corporate propaganda designed to look like the real thing. If we’re lucky.

Creative agencies are pushed to get as much earned media as possible. This can lead to hugely subversive tactics. 

As agencies, we have a moral role to keep journalism about editorial. Our job is to make our clients' campaigns as interesting as possible without having to revert to lies and tricks.

That one time advertising got me closer to God

Added on by Leon Jacobs.

There was a second time, but that involved a scary landing at Douala's airport and with unclear plan on how to get to a hotel. But that's a tale for another day.

This time, we are talking about getting up close and personal. And I was reminded of this encounter as I watched footage of the esteemed cardinals filing into the Sistine Chapel to elect a new pontiff. As I saw a glimpse of the magnificence of Michelangelo's handiwork, I was instantly transported back.

cardinals enter sistine chapel.jpg

As it happened, I was attending an agency meeting in Rome in 2006. After one of the early afternoon sessions, our Roman hosts told us that they had a special treat lined up. A van pulled up and drove us to the Vatican. The museum and the chapel had already closed for the day. But not for Saatchi & Saatchi. 

We were ushered in and guided by a rather elderly and extremely knowledgable guide. She took us through all the rooms of the Vatican museum until finally, we reached the Sistine Chapel.

There we were. Eight of us. And the guide. And a handful of angry looking dudes who made sure we didn't snap any pictures. Quick, badly framed, badly lit shots like this:

my sistine shot.jpg

To be virtually alone in that space, surrounded by the genius of the man, is a truly breathtaking experience. Unrushed, your eye could scan across the scale of his work. One could truly take in the time scale too, as you notice how his painting style evolved over the four years that it took him to paint all the frescoes.

One could, for a moment, fully appreciate the displacement of consciousness from the heavens into this tiny little building in downtown Rome.

And then, as we were about to leave, our guide talked to us about The Last Judgement - a painting Michelangelo completed 20 years later on the Northern wall of the Chapel. She told us that the pope's Master of Ceremonies complained about the time it took and all the nudity. To punish him, Michelangelo lent the official's likeness to Minos - a judge of the underworld. He also added donkey ears. When the outraged official complained, the pope just smiled and said his jurisdiction did not extend to hell.

We all chuckled at this tale. We've all had clients like that. And good for Michelangelo. In that moment, he wasn't just the god-like genius, he was just the hustling creative, getting his own back. In other words, a man, like the rest of us.


The end of bullshit

Added on by Leon Jacobs.

Advertising's obituary has been written many times. In fact, if The Google is to be believed, more than 1 billion times.

And who can blame the gloom sayers? Advertising is a business in serious trouble. Like other middle-men, the internet has made the gap between supply and demand so short the man in the street can get the best deals on anything from travel to property with a simple hop, skip and a click. No mess, no fuss and certainly no agents required.

For decades, the advertising business got away with murder. A lot of work it produced was based on instinct and gut feel. And lucky for the great agencies of the 70s, 80s and 90s, they were driven by great maverick thinkers who could create magic work based on their gut instinct. I am thinking of the great creative directors of the ilk of Arden, Hegarty, Clow, French, Saatchi and Sinclair. To name just a few. But really, the greats were only a few. Many, many more impersonators have been seated at layout pads and fed absolute schlock to unsuspecting clients.

And these clients have been growing restless. The adage "half my advertising budget is wasted, problem is I don't know which half" is said in jest. But in the tail of satire there is always the sting of truth. 

Now, let's just cut to another parallel industry for a moment. Journalism. 

Every four years, the US media machine goes completely bonkers in following the pursuit of those who wish to become the leader of the free world. And again, this year, some wild claims have been made. So much so that most Americans (and the world) went to bed on November 6 thinking the race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney would be "too close to call." One or two "data nerds", notably FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver, steadfastly predicted an Obama landslide and their final prediction tipped the incumbent to a 90% chance of winning.

Mr. Silver was not even close. He was dead on. On the money. 100% strike rate. So much so, that Jon Stewart crowned him "Lord and god of the algorithm."

Nobody can ever underestimate the earth quake that hit political punditry. All those countless hours of talking heads on TV, banging on for hours, speculating, flattened by a solid 9 on the data Silver Scale of finely tuned spreadsheets and math. 

Now, let's cut back to Madison Avenue. What can agencies learn from what happened to journalism, what clients want from a creative partner and the rise of the numbers?

This: That the three remaining forces in advertising is

  • Data - see above
  • Design - the outward shape of insight
  • Delivery - design made real

An agency that has tight control over these three Dees and know how to chain them together will be able to use the power of the numbers to create unbelievably good work. Lots of Nate Silvers, feeding real insight from real numbers of real consumer behaviour and needs to creative professionals who are geared to deliver their designs in what format the data suggests.

In the same way that FiveThirtyEight destroyed the pundits, this approach will bring an end to the bullshit in our industry.

The age of data, metrics and the internet does not hail the death of this business, but the resurrection thereof.

Russell Davies on buttons, behaviour and toys

Added on by Leon Jacobs.

I loved this talk by Russell Davies at the 2011 Next conference in Berlin.

The observations about humans wanting to make, mash-up and improve their own things is so potent. We are shifting into an age where our interconnectedness empowers us to not just be consumers of anything, but transformers. This is also a point that is powerfully made in Chris Anderson's new book, Makers.

Enjoy this talk and check out Russell's blog too.