Thursday, September 28, 2006

Coffee with French planner and founder of Oraganic Planning, Froggy

D: So why do we need planners in this world?

F: Well I would say if we need planners in this world, this world doesn’t necessarily need planners! Sometimes, we are not as humble as we should be, advertising existed before the profession and some of the best ads of all times have been realized before planning. I remember reading this quote about Jean Baudrillard on Richard Huntington’s blog "he is one of the greatest philosophical thinkers of the late 20th century and you are just some idiot who works in advertsing". I think that it’s very true!
To answer the initial question, planners only have a place in this world if they can help the industry to be more innovative, weird, thoughtful, meaningful…

D: Your philosophy on organic planning has been the cause of much praise being sited on a number of blogs and industry magazines, could you tell us a little about it and its application? How it differs from conventional planning?

F: Thank you very much, but I hadn’t so many praises! Just enough to have a job! I have created the Organic Frog blog as an application blog. I’ve tried to use the viral techniques and sent it to 40 agencies (mainly digital) around London. I had some positive and negative reactions, some was thinking that it was annoying, shameless… but I had the chance to meet some world-class planners: John Grant, Saher… thanks to this application. As I had chosen to be subversive, I asked this question: “Every agency is speaking about creativity but where does all the rubbish ads come from?” It was quite interesting to observed the reactions of the different agencies… Read the whole story on my blog here and here.
To speak a bit about the Organic planning philosophy, it starts with being curious, making lateral and non-industrial leaps, being innovative, having fresh eyes, not being stuck on a briefing template all day long! I guess this thoughts are develop by many planners – especially the bloggers one – the aim was more to show what I didn’t want to do.

D: Someone roles up to you one day and claims to be heavens marketing director. For some odd reason, you believe him (possibly due to his business card being trailed by a halo) He goes on to elaborate on how people are losing faith in heaven and putting all their allegorical eggs in this life's basket. Any idea what your brief might look like?

F: Wahoo who could refuse such a prestigious client! Well I guess that if heaven isn’t as popular as they were it is probably because the marketing department was only communicate about spirituality, fantasy, the power of the brand image… very branding 1.0 isn’t it?
The only way to be back in the game is to embrace authenticity, why not a heaven blog: do a good deed every day, an angel avatar on Second Life, the heaven festival, and why not a more cynical tool: the Heaven/Amex card, Go to heaven thanks to the ordinary expenses…
But I am deeply convinced that a business like this one is more than communication, it’s like in political communication should just be the tool and not the content.

D: Your all time best campaign?

F: I will not be original on this one but I definitely think that the “Think small” or “It’s ugly but it get you there”advertising is one of the best of all time, the insight and the execution are obvious, they look like powerpoint slide, just brilliant!
I love also the insight behind the Évian advertising with the babies, the old persons… The fear of getting old is one of the hottest topic these days, but most of the brand are misunderstanding this trend, Renault Modus advertising was saying “growing what for”… So hats off to Évian who understood this trend with class!
All time worst campaign?
I just hated the Ferrero Rocher ambassador advertising, I mean the product is crap, you can buy the product in supermarket and they wanted to present it as a premium chocolate… The execution was cheesy as well…disgusting!
I have no idea of what the idea should have been; “let’s create a luxury environment people will think that we are a premium brand!”

D: If the sh*t hits the fan in London think you'd be willing to join us in Dubai?

F: As long as Dubai is tax free why not!!

D:Great, thanks so much for being with us and good luck with!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Blogging in Saudi

I came accross this beautiful post on a Saudi girl's blog.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Letter from London

This being my first ‘letter from London’ I’m feeling the pressure to keep you all engaged so forgive the following brain dump. So to correspond on the ad industry I firstly had to negotiate living in London before I was able to stick my head outside of my 8.40am – 7.45pm and absorb what is going on. That and I have to maintain my fashionable binge drinking going along with the tower of pizza boxes I have collecting near my bin, some of those are quite vintage now actually. E bay?

Apologies, I’m just feeling the strain of working on a BTL retail account (only for another 3 months I hasten to add as this is part of my graduate training). Why do I feel I have to say that as in justify it’s not really what I do? The arrogance that general ATL London agencies instil is undeniably infectious. My previous ATL account director refers to the department I’m in, over lunch one day, as ‘key rings and bar mats’. I laugh it off, he’s paying for the Dim Sum I’m cramming in my mouth and I have no idea when I’ll be able to afford to eat there again…in fact I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford eating again full stop. But yes, a trend is showing, many large London agencies have a plug and it’s at the top of the ladder and it looks like the guy who is too insecure to admit digital is coming in hard and fast, he shouts a lot and he likes to wear a suit jacket with a white T-shirt.

Enough! So Saatchi & Saatchi took their biggest win last week and would you believe it, it was head to head with Publicis. After BBH ditched Sony Ericsson over jealousy of a brand consultancy having a better idea Saatchi & Saatchi cleared up. Now, I’ve read some great things about the Saatchi network and then not so great things about the London office and when stood side by side Publicis does in fact tower. Could this be what I’ve been waiting for? For so long I’ve wanted Saatchi & Saatchi to be THE agency of London, after all, it did via controversial means make advertising attractive in the UK in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Furthermore Saatchi needs this win like a gasping fish needs a reservoir, they’ve lost consistent chunks of Toyota to CHI, they’ve just lost their global grip on Carlsberg which leads me to my next point, they lost it to Weiden and Kennedy (W&K).

Herein lies the agency to watch. W&K have cleared DDB out with two major poaches. Remember that great Guardian ad in black and white with a skin head saving the day but from the initial point of view the ad made him look like a mugger? Well forget it anyway as that relationship since the 70s is over with W&K taking DDB’s strongest relationship, chewing it up and spitting it out. Then Lurpack is taken away from DDB the following day so it looks like a major part of DDB’s management will probably move to W&K….and rightfully so, in terms of London W&K is my mecca, with Nike, Honda, EA Games and never hiring anyone who isn’t seasoned it really is the agency where magic can still happen.

I’d love to go on but I have webstats and generic data capture forms to attend to, joy. Take care all and I’ll write again soon.



Thursday, September 21, 2006

Coffee with Starcom media strategist, Rayan Karaky

D: A whole lot of people think media is about number punching. Could you tell us a little bit about planning in a media agency?

R: This misperception originated from the history of media agencies, from the times when the media department was a room flooded with print outs of excel sheets and when consumers had nothing to do but tune in to the 4 hours continuous advertising slot on Saudi TV! If media agencies are still about punching numbers then they would have dug their own grave… The first sign of dropping the out-dated numerical approach was the choice that the media agencies took to become a separate business with a totally new role in communication.
The boom that the media scene witnessed in the last ten years along with the lack of proper media research in the market that could measure the real impact of that boom changed the life of media planners for ever. The race to understand the evolved consumer mindset started & the competition to become the most innovative brand/agency was clearly reshaping the future of the media industry.
Today, in the era of DVR, podcasting, IPTV, & all the ingredients of "LIFE on demand", media planning is becoming obsolete! Program ratings, newspaper reach & radio listenership, bla bla bla... who cares!? for the love of god do you think the consumer with his ipod equipped car, navigation system, 3G mobile phone & his Digital video recorder that is creating his own TV channel at home as we speak, is actually waiting for your 30" spot or your quarter page vertical or horizontal, depending on how creative you wanna get? Some may argue that all this is too soon for the region, these are the same people who were arguing less than 10 years ago that the penetration of Digital Satellite TV will take ages before it becomes popular… Analog who?
Which brings me back to your question, The role of a media agency that cares about delivering true value to its consumer is to predict new trends and their possible impact on consumer behavior. Apply existing trends through a deep unearthing of consumer insights and psychographics, a true understanding of the business model that each brand operates in and a clear vision of the category and the marketplace. Finally measure the true value delivered to client in order to be able to build solid projections for future communication.
Media planners should become communication solution providers, solutions that are not necessarily found in a traditional advertising campaign, otherwise they will become what floppy disks are for today's IT managers...

D: So what type of traits do you look for when hiring media planners, strategists or communications planners?

R: Enough balls to say NO and enough brains to support it...

D: What are your thoughts on integration, mere industry jargon or industry practice?

R: Integration, integration, integration,.. please spare me.. I want every M.D, CEO for every discipline in the advertising world to look in the mirror every morning and say: What have I done!?
Integrated marketing mix is becoming the obsession of every marketer, and we all know that, but what is actually funny is; one, the client is now asking for integration. two, all he's asking is for us to say Hi to the media guys next time we see them in the elevator or throw in a smile next time we see the PR chicks hanging out at the cafeteria, or even to know the name of the account manager who I sit and have lunch with everyday without saying a word! what s our response? BIG EGOES! we all think we are the boss, my company is the spear head of my client's communication plans.. well here is an idea, you know who the real boss is? It's the consumer!!! yes, I am sorry if this will offended anyone or make his balls look a bit smaller than he thought they were but it is true! the consumer has made his share of mind so scarce that now you are actually forced to pick the brains of the PR dude who you just thought was responsible for clipping press releases and ask the media guys their opinion when you thought excel was their best friend.
All the different disciplines were one agency some few years back, but the hunger for more revenue made agencies forget their initial role of delivering marketing solutions for clients, and that is not possible without an integrated approach to client objectives.
Effective communication planning is a collective effort and if holding groups don't realize that soon enough, the clients are going to determine our fate not our CXOs!

D: Any advice you would give to traditional advertising practitioners about media, maybe something they tend to overlook?

D: Well, The list is endless, but let's focus on the future… Today, it's typical of media agencies to wait till the technology is out then they wait for it to become popular, commercial enough to trigger client interest, and finally wait for the client to come and ask about it for them to go research and learn of possible ways to use it to serve their objectives, by then a new technology is already out… Look at Tivo for example, advertisers worldwide are still struggling to find ways to maneuver around the DVR feature while Microsoft and Apple have already put most of their efforts into changing what home entertainment is today… by the time the first issue is resolved, Tivo will be dead!!
In this region we are blessed, we know about the technology most of the time before it hits our market! what we need to do is build, based on consumer insights and our understanding of the market, ways to launch these technologies in the market with our clients and benefit from the hype that will surround this technology. Most of the time when the innovation is launched the cost of advertising on it is very effective, but once it becomes very popular, the cost becomes high, sometimes as high as traditional media that clients in that case will see as a much safer investment. Industry practitioners need to understand that clients, in most of the cases, are not risk takers; if we see an opportunity that we truly believe in we need to push hard, even if it costs us some clients eventually one will do it and the rest will want to be followers. If you are a leading agency you want leading clients, the kind of clients who create trends instead of waiting to react.

D: Finally, should media agency's have creative departments?

R: The norm with the advertising world today is that media planners/buyers are too "raw", creatives meanwhile have their heads in the clouds. Media agencies needn't have a creative department, they just need creative Thinkers! after all we are all collectively responsible for the interface between the client and the consumer and how we feature the brand in any piece of communication; a Media planner needs to be able to visualize this interface, regardless of who is executing this vision. This takes us back to integration, it is all about setting a common goal, visualizing the plan, once all that a clear execution becomes the result of flawless planning.
Media planners need to be versatile, they need to be cable to put themselves in the clients', the creatives' & the consumers' shoes at the same time, if they manage to do that then they will become the true consultants they should be.

D: Many thank for being with us Rayan and good luck at Starcom.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Lowe's house Ad: Guest, Man Abutaleb

(I just love this ad and asked Lowe's Arabic creative Man Abutaleb to write a little synosis of it)

"Long before we got the brief to do a house ad, a few of us ‘Lowe lives’ were contemplating this opportunity over many pints of beer.
And we all came to the conclusion that we should do a long copy ad that is relevant to the region. Long copy, because it allows us more space to construct an argument; it’s being used less and less around the world; and because no one has done it here before –that’s adman
ego+beer. And related to the region because we are from the region,
talking to the region. We’re constantly preaching to clients the benefits of insightful advertising, so how dare we not practice what we preach?

We knew that if we looked deep enough we would find something we can turn into an ad. And what did we find? One of the greatest ads ever made. Not only that, it was over 1300 years old. It was the greatest proof of what we strongly believe in: Creativity was never foreign to this region, and that no matter where you are, Creativity Pays."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Letter from London

As of tomorrow Diablog is kicking off what is dubbed 'Letter from London' which basically means that Anton Reyniers (see post on 'the most controversial grad applicant' )will be guest blogging from Publicis London every so often.
Let just call him Diablog's London correspondent with an opinion.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Coffee with Promoseven's strategist, Talal El Kateb

D: Every planner gets the same first kick off question, is planning undervalued in the region or does the region lack value in planning?

T: Chicken? Egg? Huh? In my modest opinion there seems to be two tiers of planning in the Middle East. Firstly… planning for marketing savvy clients (usually the sexiest brands out there) and secondly… planning for the clueless sales guy who just landed an undeserved promotion.

For the first grouping, the region lacks real planning talent. It lacks those strategists who love getting their hands dirty. The ones who know their “consumers” so well, they can tell you what brand chewing gum they use, who they chew it with, why they chew it, what they believe the chewing process says about them, how chewing alleviates a certain deep-seeded psychological urge for oral stimulation and what ‘hip’ chewing styles are in at the moment. On a personal note, this is what I aspire to become but I’m nowhere near that level of omnipotence regarding my targets!

The second grouping is where I feel more at home, but unfortunately it is also where “Planners” get professionally abused. At this tier of planning, we act as marketing consultants. And although, the job satisfaction of building your clients’ strategies from scratch and seeing the fruition of your efforts is ecstatic… it’s also not what you’re paid to do. When you have more clients like these, who look to you for every aspect of their marketing strategies and plans, you start losing your edge with the first, more focused job description of a planner – “The Voice of the Consumer”.

Either way, planning is becoming a cornerstone that no agency can afford to overlook, and despite the vagueness of our responsibilities, there’s always two things I love to remember… 1. I’m always learning something new. 2. My colleagues from our international headquarters are always flabbergasted at the kind of work we do here, and who doesn’t like showing up the big bosses?

D: So Talal Promoseven are known to have the most comprehensive planning department in the region, could you tell us a little bit about it and how its built into the communication process.

T: It’s true that Promoseven has one of the largest and most experienced planning networks in the region and I think the biggest strength of that is internal. It’s always stressful when you have to fight within an agency to prove your worth, but when planning is so deeply embedded in an agency’s corporate culture, it’s a walk in the park (Hyde not Safa). What’s even more impressive at Promoseven is that everyone values your opinion as a planner, from client servicing to media, and … wait for it… yes, low and behold, even the creatives value our input!!! We’re always the starting point for any major brief and we get to live through the entire communication process.

But what’s even better than enjoying these bare necessities that should automatically come with the title?


Of course we have our own proprietary tools, processes… blah blah blah, but what my favourite trait about planning at FP7 is that any planner has the means to pursue any new idea he or she may have and is fully supported, both laterally and vertically. If you’re sick of writing a brief, you can act one out! If you’re tired of coffee U & A research, you can go camp out in a Starbuck’s! If you’re bored out of your mind with bland PowerPoint, you can edit your presentation movie! When an agency is so comfortable with its planning philosophy it can afford to push past the conventional and experiment with new ways to get creative juices flowing (that always sounded so sick to me).

D: So what's Talal the planner's brand Philosophy, One word equity, Brand idea, brand connection, brand appeal, brand essence (or whatever the up to date jargon is) ?

T: What defines me and my working methods is: attention-span. I can only be productive and truly generate good work if a project has and keeps my attention, otherwise I just ‘get the job done’ for the sake of closure. Attention-span doesn’t only apply to me and what keeps me interested, it also applies to my audiences. My communication strategies are crafted in the hope that they are so unruly they will keep target audiences interested. My client presentations are injected with moments of lunacy to keep meeting attendees awake. My creative briefs are written in pseudo-creative speak (meaning I use a lot of profanity) so that they’re not crumpled up and thrown back in my face. Attention is everything!

D: We have been discussing the possibility of having some sort of a quasi APG for the region, some think that an APG is the result of good planning others argue that it's the means to elevating planning. What are your thoughts on the matter?

T: Honestly, I think your blog is the first step in setting up something like that. I couldn’t care less whether or not an APG-esque is set up for the Middle East. Who needs them? As long as we have an outlet to share thoughts amongst ourselves, just like this one, we will be feed off each other and subsequently better our intellectual products.

D: Lets face it planners are somewhat expected to carry a crystal ball in their pockets, so what do you see in your ball when asked the question 'what is goanna be the job description of a planner in the year 2016?'

T: “Um”… “hmmm”… … “Can I pass?”
Great question, particularly after having poured my heart out about the obscurity of planning in the first question! At the moment I believe there to be a “back-to-basics” global movement amongst planners. We’ve become researchers and consultants rather than “Consumers”.

But 2016, huh? How about this…

There will be a clear demarcation of territory between the marketing side of planning and the consumer side. We’ll have marketing planners and consumer planners! The marriage of the two would culminate in true Brand Planning. Wow, they should really call me in on the Middle East peace talks… what an epiphany! Honestly though, our workload by then will be too unbearable for one mind to fathom, so we’ll probably have to rethink the current planning division of labour. I don’t want to regurgitate what I’ve mentioned previously but as planning becomes more and more vital for successful brands in the region, it will envelope a lot more responsibility. We will be looked upon to share some of our clients’ duties on a purely marketing level and their research agencies’ on a consumer level. I, personally, can’t wait!

In conclusion… thanks for giving me an opportunity to vent my professional frustrations to the world and pass on my few words of wisdom (if you didn’t catch them, they’re the opening statements in Q5). I’d also like to apologise for the disproportionate length of my answers… as you can see my attention wandered as I neared the end – not your fault, the questions were grrrr-eat J

D: No worries Talal I can assure you it has been one of the most interesting coffee sessions so far. Thanks and good luck.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Thesis: Does music sound as good when free?

Here is a bit of a ramble. Was wondering to myself if it's tougher for new music artists to recruit fans.

There is some psychological term for the phenomenon that the more we invest in a possession the more we appreciate it and vise versa. So if product A cost me 20$ and product B (which is a replica of A) cost me nothing, I would appreciated A more. (Something to do with behavioral justification to avoid cognitive dissonance).
Does this mean that the possibility of artists recruiting fans has been seriously reduced? The music we discover on the radio, on Pandora, through a friend or wherever, we are most likely going to download for free or for a buck at Itunes as opposed to actually paying 20$.
At best, ill download more songs by the same artist which could in itself be defined as an evolved type of fan.
I wonder if it still sounds as good...interesting little thesis 'Does music sound as good when free?'
For those of you that read this far...arigato.

Ps. Vote for Trilogy resident Ali Ajami for DJ of the year here

Monday, September 11, 2006

New Yukon Microsite

Credit where credit is due on this new GM website, check out the car features tour. Hats off to Arc.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Coffee with Lowe's new strategist, Angela Ferreira

D: So you've recently moved to Dubai from TBWA South Africa, first
impressions of the industry?

A: Not an easy question. To be honest, I haven’t been here long enough to formulate an informed opinion. However, if we are talking off-the-cuff first impressions, then the words that come to mind are “immature”, “underutilized” and possible a little “dated”. By that I mean the work out there is a tad on the formulaic side. I find this interesting as since being here I met a host of bright, enthusiastic suits and seriously charged creatives who are just dying to get good work out there. This is even more surprising in the context of Dubai, which in all other respects is progressive, innovative and forward thinking.

D: As planners we are constantly vexing over the right sentence, or words to bring something to life. What sentence or combination of words bring Angela to life as a planner?

A: LOL! Are we talking about Angela before or after the morning Jungle Juice delivery?

My 3rd grade teacher once wrote in my report: “Angela is a happy and confident child. She has an enquiring mind and is persistent in obtaining answers to all her questions. She is a polite and sociable individual but sometimes talks too much, which can be disruptive in the classroom.”

Lets just say that nothing has changed much.

D: How much pressure are brand consultancies gonna put on agency's in the future and what do you think agency's need to do to better prepare themselves for this eventual battle?

A: Personally I don’t view brand consultancies & communication agencies as competitors. In fact, I think their work compliments ours. And vice versa.

Reality is, all the theorizing in the world is meaningless if you can’t action a desired outcome in the consumer environment in an engaging and relevant way. That’s like me writing the best strategy in the world and then sticking it in my bottom draw and never telling anyone about it. Enter communication agency stage right.

On the other hand, no amount of advertising in the world can sustain a brand that is indistinct, inconsistent or stagnant. Pretty pictures don’t build brands, it’s the people who buy into the brands that breathe life into them. Consumers don’t buy into brands that are too abstract, schizophrenic or that lack substance. Enter brand consultancy stage left.

Of course if we are talking share of wallet, that’s another story. My experience is that by working together everyone, including the client, ends up with more in the bank so I think it’s really unfortunate that the two are pitted against one another.

D: So what do you look for when interviewing a potential planner? What's your interview opener?

A: The first characteristic I look for is CURIOSITY.

Strategy is not about being smart or knowing the right answer; it’s about asking the right questions. We can never hope to know more about our clients business than they do and empathizing with consumers will never actually enable us to walk a day in their shoes. Generally, asking the right questions unearths all the necessary information and if you are really lucky, a couple of really insightful gems make an appearance. Then it’s simply a case of joining the dots and TA-DA - the strategy becomes as clear as day.

First question? Tell me about the first hurdle you hit in your first job ever? Age? What? Where? What happened?

Personally I find this line of questioning, a good indication of attitude. The debate rages on – Are planners born or made? Personally I think it’s a little of both. In my humble view, nothing beats a “can do” attitude. Passion is paramount and talent necessary, but both are useless without the drive to succeed. Good planners are more doers than talkers. Although being blessed with the gift of the gab never hurts :)

D: Welcome to Dubai Angela we wish you all the best!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Coffee with one of the first local UAE national ladies to hit ad scene

D: So your working in a big agency right now, you are definitely a minority. How easy are you finding it to blend in as a local?

Guest: Is minority the word? I think singleton would be more appropriate :) All jokes aside, it’s a completely different experience to what I had expected. On the first couple of days at the agency I really felt like an outsider, but a few months into it now and I'm so swamped with work I don’t even notice! But seriously, the people at the agency I work at are super friendly and the atmosphere is just awesome. im really starting to get the hang of being part of the agency family, and liking it!!

D: You rarely find local people working in ad agency's why is it the case? What are the stereotypes locals tend to hold of agency's?

Guest: To be honest, I don’t think that local people had the talent or the interest to be working for an advertising agencys 5-10 years ago. But just like Dubai, the locals develop fast. They're expanding their interests, learning new things, and going into fields that were, until now, not even an option and because they tend to do things they love, they are extrememly hard working and always set out to be better than everyone else. Stereotypes: Locals tend to percieve agencys similair to mafias, as in they'll never let an outsider in! In spite of this, the reality of the matter is pretty different, agencies are often pleasantly surprised and open when they meet an outspoken, hardworking, eloquent local .. (not just the specific agency I work for, but many different ones I've happen to have dealt with), I think they just arent aware of whats out there. At the end of the day, its our responsibility to show people (as locals) what we're capable of, otherwise, how will they know?

D: Do you think this will eventually change in the future?

Guest: It's already changing! It started about a couple of years ago, locals started penetrating the advertising field by freelancing while they were still students, or secondary to their "government" jobs. Now, im a local working fulltime at an agency, and I have a feeling I'm the first of many to come!

D: Agencys have had some trouble attracting local talent. Any advice you could offer?

Guest: A majority of the local talent pool is fairly young, mostly fresh graduates so a good place to start would be scouting universities. My reccomendation of course would be AUS (American University of Sharjah).Every year, AUS has a career fair were graduates or soon-to-be graduates walk around a room full of potential employers and hand out CVs, have mini-interiews and familiarize themselves with the professional world out there. Also, The School of Architecture and Design, (includes Architecture, Interior Design, Multimedia Design, Design Management, & Visual Communication) have yearly publications of their work, as well as the School of Business & Management which has a yearly graduate Resume Book.

D: Many thanks for being with us, we wish you all the best in your career!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The male wallet suffers yet another blow...

The wallet that once carried everything and anything from coins and bills to family pictures and other 'memory tidbits' has now become obsolete. The wallet as a scrap book has been replaced by the mobile phone and now Visa are delivering yet another blow.
I look forward to someone solving the pending coin issue in the recent future...