Friday, 19 September 2014

19/09/14 - How to get ahead in advertising

I’ve been working in advertising since March 2006, and quite a lot’s changed since then. There used to be a Wii in reception, for a start. That came in very handy, because back then there was a real culture of meeting in the office bar on a regular basis; every Thursday and Friday night, the bar was packed with people blowing off steam with a pint or seven (and smoking indoors, natch – it was legal then) – it was weird if you weren’t there. That isn’t really the case any more. But it was pretty common to wake up on the weekend with a sore shoulder because you’d drunkenly indulged in rather too much Wii tennis the night before.
I came in on the tail end of the era of profligate spending; paid-for departmental lunches were commonplace – once a week, at least – and would often end in the afternoon being largely written off due to all the lunchbeers. Need to get across town afterwards? Simple, just call the company cab account, give ’em a made-up name and job number and joyride your way across the metrop gratis. (n.b. Obviously I never did this, that’s probably a sackable offence. Honestly, those scallywags.)

But for all that’s changed, there are certain perennial constants. Some things in advertising will never change. And speaking as someone who never studied advertising, never had any particular desire or inkling to work in the industry, fell into the job by accident and ended up sticking around for years, I can say with some confidence that it’s certainly possible to make a go of it in adland even if you know piss all about advertising. It’s a piece of cake – all you need to do is follow these simple rules, in the JuicyPips Guide to Getting Ahead in Advertising

Say the word ‘strategy’ a lot
This seems to be very important. No-one gives a fuck what it means – if, indeed, it means anything at all – but it’s vitally important to be seen to have a strategy. Or, at least, to be talking about one.
Be sure to play around with ‘strategise’, as well as misusing ‘stratify’, and deploying the hideous contraction ‘strat’.

Use horrible made-up words like ‘learnings’
Again, a lot of importance is placed on talking like a mindless illiterate. It’s ever so important to ‘share your learnings’, even if it does make everybody want to punch you in the head, you fucking idiot.

Don’t turn up on Fridays
Apparently this is OK.
I’m always here on Fridays, I’ve got shit to do. But no-one else is, it’s like the Marie Celeste. They can’t all be on a four-day week, can they? How are they getting away with it?
I guess if everyone’s out of the office, no-one’s there to tell them off. Interesting.
(I say ‘I’ve got shit to do’ – I generally spend Fridays nosing around in people’s desk drawers, skateboarding naked up and down the corridors, and leaving unsavoury substances in the water dispenser tanks.)

Massively overuse the phrase ‘going forward’ (or ‘moving forward’)
This irritates the hell out of me, but apparently it’s a necessary cog in the advertising machine. You’re never just coming up with an idea, it has to be ‘the idea going forward’. If you ever mention something that’s going to happen in the future, it’s mandatory to explain it as ‘moving forward, we’d like to do this…’
Try and slip it into every sentence, people will assume you’re a pro.

Work late, even though you don’t need to
I fell into this trap early on – I went through a phase of arriving at the office at 7am and working through to 7 or 8pm. For, like, months – it was exhausting. Because working hours are an arms race. If you’re the one who’s always in the office, perhaps you won’t be first against the wall when the redundancies come. Self-preservation, yeah?
(I don’t do this any more. I’m out of the door at bang-on 5:30 every day, which inevitably always leads to some berk in the lift saying ‘hur hur, leaving early are we?’ No. No, I’m not. I’ve done a day’s work, and now it’s home time. Stop showing off about how hard you’re working, no-one’s impressed.)

Huff and puff a lot
Further to the above, you’ll do yourself a lot of favours by creating the appearance of being busy. If you’re always a bit frazzled and worked-up, you’re probably indispensable, right? So when you’re waiting at the printer for something to pop out of the slot, or tapping your toes as you wait for the elevator to come, or just making a cup of tea in the kitchen, be sure to huff and puff impatiently throughout. Your time is invaluable, and everyone needs to appreciate that. Constant, aggressive exhalation will let everybody know.

Walk everywhere quickly, holding a piece of paper
Similarly, striding briskly through the office will reinforce the point that you’re very busy and important. If you’re holding a piece of paper (and it can be any piece of paper, no-one will look at it), it’s probably something vital that you need to get to somebody else without delay.
Be sure to always be too busy to talk to anyone as well – even if you’re travelling down a few floors in the lift with somebody (which is a finite period of time, in which it makes absolutely no difference whether you’re chatty or not). Just spend your time exaggeratedly looking at your watch every three seconds and quietly muttering ‘comeoncomeoncomeon’.

Refer to a PowerPoint presentation as ‘a deck’
Everybody in advertising does this. Nobody else in the world does. It’s just one of those mysteries.

Talk about Creatives as if they’re some kind of alien species
Creative folk get a capital C because it’s their role as much as their calling (see also Planners). They can generally be found hanging out in pairs – one of them writing the words, the other drawing the pictures. On the whole, they’re very interesting people – this makes sense, as they have that wonderfully child-like, inquisitive nature that leads them to want to create and share new things. They usually have a broad and extensive knowledge of advertising history, art and culture in general, human behaviour and much else of interest.
It is vitally important, however, that you never acknowledge this. They must be lumped together as a common, sinister entity, ‘the Creatives’, a collective to be simultaneously afraid and suspicious of, and slightly irritated by. On no account must you acknowledge that they’re people, and are probably quite nice. For some reason, that’s just not on.

Complain about business travel
You get to fly at 500mph in a colossal metal bird, for free, then stay in a foreign hotel, again for free. Imagine what your teenage self would have made of that idea.
But no, it’s awful.

Don’t be ashamed to reel out the clichés
Oh, there’s a lot of this. You’ll hear phrases like ‘outside the box’ and ‘blue sky thinking’ on a daily basis, along with pseudo-ironic variants like ‘let’s blue sky this’. Incredibly, ‘grasp the low-hanging fruit’ actually gets a regular airing too, along with the repulsive ‘hearts and minds’. The more you cheese it up, the more you’ll sound like you know what you’re talking about.

Say weird phrases with such confidence that everyone assumes they should know what it means and thus never question it
What do you think a ‘tissue meeting’ is?
Nope, me neither. Nobody knows. But a lot of them happen, and you’re not allowed to question it because everyone else will assume that you’re not as good at advertising as they are, despite not knowing themselves. It’s a sort of test.
Tissue meetings are generally just rooms full of people uneasily eyeing each other up to see who’ll crack first.

Act like you’re in Nathan Barley, in a totally brazen and unselfconscious manner
This is particularly important if you work in digital, social, or any other adjective that the industry insists on using as a noun. Wear a suit jacket over a t-shirt. Have at least two phones on you at any given time. Reel off a lot of pithy comments about the state of Apple Corp that you’ve stolen from Wired magazine. Make sure that your legs are half-business-half-pleasure (in either combination – pinstripe trousers with Converse All-Stars, or skinny jeans with patent leather shoes). Directly quote Nathan Barley – ‘well Jackson’, ‘totally fucking Mexico’, etc – in an attempt to create an impression of irony. Fill your office with novelty items you’ve stolen from shoots. Wear sunglasses indoors.

Drop acronyms willy-nilly
Acronyms are the lifeblood of the industry. On your first day, if you’re lucky, someone will kindly explain the difference between ATL and BTL… if they don’t, you’ll be immediately baffled by the sheer volume of mentions.
You’ll be needing B2B and B2C of course, that’s basic stuff. And then there’s CPL, POS, SME, DRTV, WoM, CTR, MPS, AIDA, CAB, DAGMAR… it’s all BS, of course, but necessary.

See? It’s easy. I’ve been here eight and a half years and nobody’s noticed that I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. They’ll read this and assume that I’m joking too. (And this. [And this.]) Oh, what a glorious gravy train this industry is.





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Thursday, 11 September 2014

11/09/14 - Wiring plugs, and so on

I clearly remember being taught how to wire a plug in a science lesson at school. It felt like a useful skill, and our science rooms had a good earthy feel to them – gas taps on every bench that allowed you to shoot out three-foot flames, sinks with wooden covers beneath which you could hide each other’s books in six inches of water, actual inkwells – so it was a distinctly dad-like task.
Ultimately pointless, of course, for two reasons: a) everything comes with a plug these days, and b) if you need to know how to do it, you just Google it. (As with so many things, in fact – it’s 2014, you don’t need to remember anything. [As long as the internet doesn’t break, then we’re all fucked.] Just don’t tell the schoolkids, it keeps them busy.) I couldn’t tell you with total confidence which wire is which now – not without checking – which presumably demonstrates a certain improvement in the consistency of modern electricity supply, that we haven’t got fuses blowing all the time. There were always spare fuses about the house when I was a nipper. I’ve never bought one as an adult though. Interesting.
Wiring a plug, then, is something that the youth of today would have little interest in. It’s not something they’re all that likely to do. And it’s not the only thing that’d seem baffling and pointless if you tried to explain it, as the following examples suggest…

Tapes & pencils
Sit a teenager down and present them with two objects: a cassette tape and a pencil. Ask them to explain the relationship between the two.
If they’re of a logical disposition, they may postulate that the pencil is for labelling the cassette – the erasable nature of pencil rather than pen going neatly hand-in-hand with the re-recordability of the tape.
But no. It’s obvious to anyone who grew up in the eighties and nineties - a standard six-sided pencil is exactly the right size to poke through the cassette’s reel holes to wind all the tape back in when the machine decides to try and eat it.
Honestly, they don’t know they’re born, with their mp3s and whatnot.

Programming the VCR
A really important element of my childhood holidays was programming the video recorder before we left. It was important to ensure that the machine was on long-play – reduced quality, but doubled run time – so that a 180-minute cassette could be stretched out to a wafer-thin 360. That’s enough space for twelve half-hour episodes of… whatever.
Then I had to make sure that the machine was properly tuned into the channels – all four of them - as it had a tendency to forget about BBC2, and that’s where the best comedy was. Then it was a case of going through the Radio Times, seeing what was coming up in the next month or so (my folks were teachers, we had long summer holidays), and painstakingly programming all the good stuff in. This involved all sorts of tricky timing as most of the good stuff was on Friday nights – if you programmed in Have I Got News For You, you’d probably miss the first five minutes of Whose Line Is It Anyway. And so on.
On returning home, we’d invariably find a tape that was 50% good stuff, 50% randomly recorded episodes of Tomorrow’s World or The Clothes Show, thanks to scheduling changes that the VCR couldn’t do anything about. (We didn’t have VideoPlus.)
These days, I’ve got an app on my phone that allows me to set the Sky+ in seconds. Where’s the bloody challenge in that?

Watching TV in real time
Imagine making the choice between watching something on TV or going out. Imagine missing half of a programme because the phone rings mid-way through. Imagine missing an episode of your favourite series, and having no way of catching up unless one of your mates happened to have taped it. These all seem like incredible and absurd happenings to the modern teen. If you didn’t see it, you just watch it on catch-up, or find it online, or whatever. No-one watches TV when it’s actually on these days, do they?
When I was a kid (sorry, I keep saying that – I’m 32, I’m not decrepit yet) we had four channels, and you watched things when they were on. If you were out at the time, you just accepted that you’d missed it. What a ridiculous, caveman-like way to live.

Writing a letter to a celebrity
It must seem so absurdly old-fashioned to the modern teen, the idea that you’d ever bother to physically put pen to paper and scribble down a few thoughts, then fold it up, buy a stamp, pop it into a letterbox addressed to the person in question’s PA or agent or whoever’s address you’d managed to track down, and cross your fingers for a response.
I wrote a letter to Zoë Ball when I was about eleven or twelve (I can’t remember what I said, probably something along the lines of ‘I think you’re great on Live & Kicking’), and a few weeks later she did actually write back (again, can’t remember what she said, but probably something like ‘er, cheers’). I mean, it might not even have been her, I don’t know what her handwriting looks like. Doesn’t really matter though, does it?
Kids today would just tweet the celeb in question, and either get a reply or not. Instant gratification, or something immediately forgotten.
I should have kept that letter, it’d really help to reinforce this point.

I came up with a whole load of further points to elaborate upon here (getting milk delivered to your doorstep, listening to John Peel on the radio, fondly remembering celebrities of yore without wondering whether they were actually paedophiles, going to the video rental shop, arranging to meet up with friends over the landline, people smoking in pubs, the secrets of preparing a good conker [which always came from a dad or uncle, passed down the generations], paying for things with cheques, going on holiday in the knowledge that you wouldn’t talk to any of your friends until you got back [unless you bought a telephone card and went to the phone box], slam-door trains that you could jump out of while they were moving, being really impressed to know someone who’d been to America) but I’m aware that I sound like a very old man, so I’m just going to stop here. I’m not complaining about the modern world, I like it. It’s just different, innit? A plug on every appliance, and a smooth flow of electricity. Aren’t we lucky?




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