Saturday, 24 September 2011

The Swedish art of Reflection

A few weeks ago an excited clutch of RKCR-ers attended a three-day course run by Hyperisland, the Swedish digital university.

It’d taken me six months to organise the thing.

And it didn’t disappoint.

They opened our eyes to a load of cool stuff.

Around social media, data, analytics, APIs, hacking, crowd sourcing, Swedish schnapps…

But there was something else they exposed us to that was nothing to do with new technologies.

Or, indeed, digital.

It was something far more profound.

Hyperisland practice an exercise they call ‘reflection’.

And they’re pretty dogmatic about it.

Each morning, before we flung ourselves into the day’s learning, we were asked, or rather forced, to sit and think about the previous day.

About what we found most interesting and useful.

It was a simple, but strictly followed process.

We’d each be given 15 minutes to go over our notes individually.

Then we’d be split into groups of five and we’d be given another 15 minutes to each discuss our learnings amongst ourselves.

Finally the whole room would share their thoughts one by one.

(At this point anyone who’d been anywhere near group therapy found themselves squirming just a little bit.)

The result was astonishing.

We’d start the process each believing that our perspective on what we’d experienced was the only truth.

Believing that, surely, everyone would have taken what we had out of the day.

We’d end the session with 30 different interpretations of the same thing.

Each just as valid as ours.

Group reflection is a type of crowd sourcing.

A fantastic way of generating thoughts, perspectives and insights. 


It's something we could all utilise in many ways. 

If we carved out the time to do so!

The experience also powerfully confirmed something we all know already:

Never ever presume someone else’s perspective is the same as yours.

We so often assume that everyone can see our ideas for the brilliant things we believe them to be.

And we get frustrated when people - agency, client, or punter - can’t see what we see.

Truth is in the eye of the beholder.

And if we want others to understand ours we need to do more than simply presume they already do.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

What makes a bad ad?

It’s widely believed that to be a good creative director you need to know what makes a good ad.

But there’s something far more important you need to know:

What makes a bad one.

The spectre of mediocrity awaits advertising at every turn.

And it falls upon the creative director to ensure their agency’s shit filter remains regularly serviced, in optimum working order and pointed in the right direction.

Many hours of our days are spent preventing disasters happening.

Unforeseen disasters. Unintentional disasters.

They can occur at any time along the production chain.

But the most critical touch-point is always the first one. The first review.

Every day we’re asked to study scraps of paper filled with words and pictures and gaze into the future.

To foretell, in milliseconds, what the finished item will look like in months to come. And whether it’ll work. (Our business cards could read: Company Soothsayer.)

That’s why every time a creative director is presented with a concept a million questions bloom in their head:

Is the work on strategy?

Will it get noticed?

Has it been done before?

Will people like it?

Will it add value to the brand?

Do we have the budget to make it properly?

Do we have to time to make it properly?

Might the client be able to remove the idea and still insist it gets made?

Could research suggest some ‘improvements’ that do anything but?

What client politics would be involved in presenting it?



There’s no end to the possible pitfalls waiting to crucify an idea as it moves from conception to birth.

And the questions we ask on that crucial first glimpse are what dictate whether the world will be exposed to another beauty or another beast.

Approving great ads is one of the easiest and most enjoyable parts of the job.

Stopping bad ones leaving the building is one of the toughest and most important.

But the only way to stop one scuttling out the door is to recognise it for what it is or could become.

So next time your creative director pauses before giving a point of view bare this in mind: he may well be pondering on more than “Did I make that reservation at The Ivy for 1.00, or 1.30?”

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Why Nike just might have the best endline in the world.

The other evening I was fortunate enough to listen to Cindy Gallop speak on The Future of Advertising.

She shared many interesting facts and theories.

One thing she talked about was one of her own start-up ventures:

ifwerantheworld is a digital platform that allows people to do things they really want to do, via the help of others.

The key to the process is something Cindy calls Micro-actions. People do smallish things that are pretty easy to do. Lots of people do smallish things. Lots of big things get done.

But it was the human psychology behind it that I found fascinating.

That doing things has a physiological effect on us.

It makes human beings feel good.

Lack of action is depressing.

It leads to stagnation. In relationships, careers, businesses.

Taking action is intoxicating.

And, because it feels so good, leads to more action.

Setting goals and achieving them is the stuff of life.

That’s what karate is all about.

It's why the system of coloured belts exists.

Challenging yourself to do something you don’t believe you can do, and doing it.

And that’s like a drug.

But to get the same 'high' one's actions don't have to be difficult, scary stuff.

"I’m going to tidy my desk. I’m going to hang that picture. I’m going to walk an extra few minutes today."

Doing anything worthwhile can elicit this kind of positive feeling.

So when Nike tells us to ‘Just do it’ they're saying more than ‘do it because it’s something you want to do, hey why not? Oh and by the way we’ve got some shoes that might help.’

They’re saying ‘do something and you will feel better than you do right now.’

That’s a pretty powerful truth.

Imagine if everyone in the world acted on that endline, how much happier we’d all be?