How to persuade clients to take creative risks?

Pat Fallon shares his thoughts on how to get your clients to take creative risks:

“Taking risks is part of our business. One key to persuading clients to take a risk is tightly aligning strategy with the creative approach. Although some observers think advertising comes down to crazy people sitting in a room brainstorming, strategy is the rigorous, behind-the-scenes part of our process—it’s driven by research and consumer insights, and it helps to precisely define what the company is trying to accomplish with a campaign, who the campaign is meant to reach, and why it’s going to trigger a specific response that drives sales. An idea that may seem risky during a presentation will look less so when it’s clear that we’ve thought it through. The client realizes, “These guys understand my business. They understand the flow of money. They are putting my success at the forefront of decisions.” That creates enough trust for the client to say, “OK, I’m going to hold my breath, hold my nose, and jump into the water with you.””

Read the full article right here.

Selling bravery to clients – Sir John Hegarty

How does bravery define great work, that was the question from David Droga to this panel of industry legends at Advertising Week Europe earlier this week. Here’s what John Hegarty had to say about that. He doesn’t like the word ‘bravery’, linking that directly to an element fear and nobody wants to be afraid.

Firstly, he said: “Agencies don’t make great decisions they make recommendations and when we talk about agencies being brave, we’re not, it’s our clients.”

And secondly: “We spend a lot of time trying to get clients to buy brave work and my latest observation is if 10 per cent is bought by clients you’re doing quite well. So you’re being paid vast amounts of money for being ignored 90 per cent of the time.”

Hegarty admits that despite his efforts trying to get clients to be brave with advertising, they are simply not “attuned” to taking risks. His solution? Change your approach.

“There is no point in saying ‘I want you to be brave’. You’re not going to succeed,” he told the advertisers in the room. “We need to challenge this notion that we’ve got to sell more bravery because people won’t like it – we’ve got to think of a different word for it.”

Hegarty revealed he now uses the word “excitement” when talking about bolder work to clients.

Full article/report on The Drum.
Image credit also The Drum.

Put the hours in

We often get questions how it’s possible that we are only 45 people at Duval Guillaume, working on European campaigns for clients such as Carlsberg, Coke Zero, Smirnoff, … and many others. My answer to that is very simple: put the hours in. Whatever the business you’re in if you want to be successful you will have to put the hours in. When TIME asked Ricky Gervais about the secrets of his success his advice was also not about his style of humor or his vision on comedy, it was about working hard:

The first, “work hard,” is not only the most important, but actually, essential. I believe that if you didn’t have to work for something, it can’t truly be considered success. Luck doesn’t count. I think success is allowed a certain pride and you can’t be proud of luck or even of being born smart, artistic, or talented. It’s what you do with it that counts. I think I learnt this lesson relatively late in life. I was one of those people who would pride themselves on getting results without trying too hard. Passing exams without revising too much. I realize now, that was the wrong attitude. You should always try your hardest. The Office was the first thing I really tried my hardest at. I don’t know why I started this radical new approach then, but I think it was one of those carpe diem type revelations. I came into the industry with a slightly older head on my shoulders than most and maybe deep down knew I shouldn’t blow the opportunity. I put everything into it. A lifetime of experiences, and I couldn’t have been prouder of the results. I don’t even mean the success of the show, but simply the finished product. I was the laziest man in the world before I made The Office but now I’m addicted to that sort of success. Pride in my work. Now I’m a workaholic, because I realize that the hard work is sort of a reward in itself. Winston Churchill said, “If you find a job you really love, you’ll never work again.” That’s what it feels like most of the time. I love it so it’s less like work and more like play. Although I’m a strong believer that creativity is the ability to play.

Does technology generate more talk, less conversation?

There’s an interesting article in The Atlantic based on an interview with the publication and Sherry Turkle, a psychologist and a professor at MIT. She recently released the book Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other in which she argues that we are losing the art of conversation:

“Conversations, as they tend to play out in person, are messy—full of pauses and interruptions and topic changes and assorted awkwardness. But the messiness is what allows for true exchange. It gives participants the time—and, just as important, the permission—to think and react and glean insights. “You can’t always tell, in a conversation, when the interesting bit is going to come,” Turkle says. “It’s like dancing: slow, slow, quick-quick, slow. You know? It seems boring, but all of a sudden there’s something, and whoa.” Occasional dullness, in other words, is to be not only expected, but celebrated. Some of the best parts of conversation are, as Turkle puts it, “the boring bits.” In software terms, they’re features rather than bugs. The logic of conversation as it plays out across the Internet, however—the into-the-ether observations and the never-ending feeds and the many, many selfies—is fundamentally different, favoring showmanship over exchange, flows over ebbs. The Internet is always on. And it’s always judging you, watching you, goading you. “That’s not conversation,” Turkle says. She wants us to reclaim the permission to be, when we want and need to be, dull.”

I like the idea of the occasional dullness. The idea that breaks or gaps in a conversation is actually help drive the conversation. Check out the whole article.

Creativity is everyone’s responsibility

Coca-Cola’s Jonathan Mildenhall, responsible for global advertising strategy & content excellence, has his part in making sure Coca-Cola became the Cannes Advertiser of the year in 2013. His Content 2020 manifest (part 1 | part 2) which was shared at the Cannes Lions a few years ago inspired more than just the marketers at the Coca-Cola company. He has proven that creativity and commercial success go hand in hand, but also states that creativity belongs to all of us as you can read in this interesting interview:

The key to Coca-Cola’s change, says Mildenhall, was understanding that creativity is everyone’s responsibility and remit, individually and inside the organisation. “To change, Coke had to take creativity in the widest sense back from the agencies. It couldn’t belong only to the hairy elites of agency creative departments.”

In the same interview Mildenhall defines how he thinks of creative leadership, sharing his 9 principles on the topic:

  1. Creative directors are the soul of the company or brand they lead
  2. They amplify the creativity in everyone they work with
  3. They distort reality and make the impossible seem possible
  4. They are relentlessly optimistic, exuding positive, infectious energy
  5. They create a culture of curiosity, never stop asking or learning, and have the best questions
  6. They establish trust, honesty and belief by giving away credit
  7. They make unpopular calls to do the right thing by the work
  8. They inspire risk
  9. They celebrate success and failure.

Read the whole interview on marketingmagazine.co.uk or follow him on Twitter on @mildenhall.

Automattic and the ‘distributed workforce’, let’s reinvent the way we work

Maybe the company name Automattic doesn’t immediately ring a bell, but I’m sure WordPress does. Automattic is the company behind WordPress and also other web services such as Gravatar, Akismet, Polldaddy, … If you were to look at traffic numbers for all websites running on WordPress combined, they would be the 3rd biggest in the world, right after Google and Facebook. This website represents only a very tiny part of that :-)

It’s not WordPress as a product I wanted to talk about however. During an interview at the Golden Drum Festival about a week ago I was asked about how I saw the evolution of our business and the new challenges that might arise while competing more and more with tech companies, attracting the right talent and everything. I said first of all that I think one of the biggest challenges we face in attracting talent is no so much that we compete with tech companies but that we compete with companies that think very differently about how they are organised and maybe also how they are evaluated. It made me think of a conversation I had with Sara Rosso, responsible for the VIP services at WordPress, at LeWeb last year. She explained me how they are organised as a distributed workforce and I thought that was massively impressive.

Web_AuttomaticMap

Think about it. More than 130 people work at Automattic, spread over 27 countries or 80 different cities. You cannot not be curious on how they make that work. In case you’re a small startup you probably can image something like that for your own business but once you’re talking about several dozens or in this case hundreds of people that’s not so easy to do. Even if I look at myself, when I was still working at Microsoft they launched ‘The new world of work’ and when we moved into the new office around that time proof was there that technology can really help you organise your work in a different way. Since I worked for the London office but out of Belgium I often worked from home and there was nothing holding me back from doing my work just as fine as if I were to spend all that time in the office. And that was really not even that advanced back then compared to Automattic today.

The way they make it work is even more impressive. All internal collaboration is based on WordPress. They make little use of email internally, most of the communication happens on WordPress blogs. A result of that is that they’re also extremely transparent since pretty much everything on those internal WordPress sites can be consulted by everyone (internally). All other communication runs via IRC and on occasion a group conversation via Skype when IRC doesn’t suffice. Very little of the communication happens over the phone. All internal WordPress blogs are based on the P2 WordPress theme, a kind of mix between Twitter and Facebook. The expression “P2 it” is used by everyone, it’s a reminder to put information from a meeting, chat, … on the P2 platform. This way all decisions and information is well documented.

Tasks are organised in so-called ‘fire teams’ of 4-6 people and those teams have their own charter and their own objectives for the given tasks. They don’t work based on time tracking (something that would anyway be difficult based on how they are structured) and evaluation is fully based on reaching the goals that were set. And we all link evaluation based on goals but still how it’s organised here is very different than what’s commonly used. The smaller teams will maybe meet each other in real life maybe 2-3 times a year and once a year the whole company gets together.

The company also has an ‘open vacation policy’. This means there are no pre-defined number of holidays for an employee, they think that everyone should have the possibility to take the time for themselves and family and as a result should be able to plan their own time off.

It’s clear that the model Automattic is using probably is not workable within every industry. Looking at my own industry a lot has been written already about the importance of people sitting in the same space (or not). And I get many of the arguments but a lot of times they also sound very defensive towards the current structures and procedures and we all know you can only start innovating when you challenge that status quo. It does inspire me to think about different ways of working with people and I do see a clear benefit, the world basically opens up when looking for talent in when you could make that work. Location becomes a secondary consideration, whereas today it feels that for many people location is actually becoming more important than it used to be.

Photo credit Automattic.com

Create value & value creative

When Lee Clow speaks, you listen. The man renown for his work on Apple and Absolut at TBWA/Chiat/Day talked about his thoughts on agency compensation a few weeks ago in a video for an event organized by the 4A’s.

In the video he talks about how good creative ideas can be very valuable brand assets and that other than in most creative industries (media, artists, …) you don’t get paid for the value of what you create:

“Unfortunately, in our business, we get paid like we’re doing our clients’ laundry. We haven’t figured out that the ideas that we create can become a very powerful asset to the brands we work for. Many of the ideas — whether they be slogans or advertising forms and styles or a voice that we create for brands — could be listed on the balance sheet of our clients as an asset with millions and millions of dollars in value.”

I think he’s right to the point that the power of good creativity gets undervalued. Good creative and good results go hand in hand and therefore it’s important for businesses to realize that it’s not something you can commoditize, like Mr. Clow mentions in the video. We should – together with our clients – work out different ways of valuing ideas though:

“We’re supposed to be a creative business, but I think we have been probably the least creative industry in the history of the world in terms of figuring out how to get paid.”

With businesses under pressure due to the ongoing crisis there seems to be an always bigger focus on the end (marketing) product – what you see is what you get. The time or talent needed to make the best creative possible are often ‘invisible’ to clients which results in what Mr. Clow talks about in his video.

This also puts pressure on the client –  agency relationship, something which doesn’t lead to the best results either as shown by Frank Shuring at the ‘My message in your brain’ conference (NL). His neuroscience research showed that better client – agency relationships directly lead to much better results. Surprised? Not really. Sounds obvious, so now let’s make it happen. And let’s discuss what it is that both sides value most, so we can get out of this crisis together.

Calling Marcus Brown and his 14 characters [interview]

When I started blogging again a couple of weeks ago I also knew that I wanted to do more than just write posts about stuff interest me. I also wanted to find a way to share small digital snippets of things that amuse me or inspire me for which I’ve ‘refurbished’  my Posterous. The other idea I had asked for a bit more preparation. The last few years I’ve met quite a few people via the blog or the work related travels, people that have inspired me and still do today. They inspire me because in my view they do something unique; because they are and think different. The idea was to have (and record) a conversation with them and to make sure you get to know them as well the way I do.

Marcus Brown is the first person I’ve interviewed this way. And thankfully (because he’s got all this tech knowledge) he is also the one who told me how to record this conversation so I could post it here. If I remember well Marcus and I first ‘met’ via The Age of Conversation, it was definitely around that time frame. Marcus is an Englishman living in Germany and does all kinds of fascinating stuff online, creating characters and stories that have amused me for quite some time now. So in case you didn’t know Marcus yet, here’s your chance to get to know him. Marcus and I talked about how he started creating transmedia characters, about the development of complex narratives and storytelling. The real thing, here we go.

Like Marcus mentions during the talk not all content remains online after finishing ‘a series’ but here are a few links:

And last but not least his latest project ‘I Walk for Dr. Peter Figge’ where you can follow the evolution of Marcus’ 800km walk from Munich to Hamburg to meet with Jung von Matt’s CEO. Follow progress and support Marcus right here.

Thanks for the chat Marcus! And thanks for being the guinea pig on this one ;) And to all of you who listened, feel free to feedback on the format and execution.