AdLand Suit is Dan Shute, a Board Account Director at Delaney Lund Knox Warren, a top ten London Advertising Agency. This is where I write about the life of a Suit - which can include pretty much anything. Delaney's didn't know I was doing this, but they do now. They still don't agree with everything I say though. They'd also probably rather I swore less.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

A Tribute, A Good Use Of Spotify, And A Good Cause

This post is mostly about Spotify and the good cause - in this case, Cancer Research. Some kind-hearted, tech-savvy, and really-rather-nice-in-real-life people have set up something called The Invisible Festival. It is, as the headline says, a lovely use of Spotify, and all the proceeds go to a good place. They're doing it all off their own backs, simply because they're good people - read more about it here, and sign up to the Facebook group here. Spread the word, dear readers.

And, as a completely unrelated aside, in the picture at the top of this post, I'm paying cowboy-homage to Colman, for no real reason. That is all.

(Incidentally, in case you blinked and missed it, Matthew Robson was wrong. The kids aren't all gaming, they're pissed on White Lightning and Daisy Chaining. The readers of ALS have spoken.)

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

This Week, I Have Been Listening To A Lot Of...

When I'm not busy being a fulltime Suit, those that know me well would tell you that I care far too much about music (the Glastonbury post may have given you a clue). And I thought I'd share that obsession with you good people. As such, this is the first of what will be a fairly regular series of posts on ALS along the lines of 'What's on my iPod at the moment'. So here we go.

First off, as it's Ashes season (did I mention that?), I've been listening to the simply delightful Duckworth Lewis Method - Jiggery Pokery and the track below are two personal favourites.

The Duckworth Lewis Method

And then, in somewhat of a departure from my usual tastes, I've been rather enjoying the jazz stylings of Mr Joe Stilgoe . I'll be the first to admit that artists that describe themselves as jazz/swing on MySpace don't normally get that far with me, but (full disclosure alert) Joe is a friend of a friend, and because I'm a nice chap, I bought his album, and listened to it, and really liked it. He's a bit like Jamie Cullum, only with a slightly better voice, and is slightly less of a visually-confusing jazz dwarf. Weird.


Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The Death Of Psychological Pricing?

I came across an interesting article on the BBC website this morning - essentially, it dealt with the gradual disappearance of the £X.99 price tag. Viewed by many as one of the greatest marketing inventions of our time, it now appears that for a variety of reasons, psychological pricing* is no longer relevant.

There's a fair bit of evidence to support this idea, the rise of the pound shop amongst it. But more recently, as the article points out, there has been an even greater shift, with the big four supermarkets showing an increase of 150% in their pound-based promotions, compared to a 6% increase in promotions in general.

There's an obvious 'convenience' reasoning that you can apply - people just don't like having pockets or purses or wallets full of coppers. But without arguing that people are even less willing to damage their trousers or handbags during times of financial uncertainty than otherwise (which is almost certainly true, but equally certainly fatuous), that doesn't really mean much.

So are supermarkets suggesting that people are now so marketing savvy that the .99 suffix actually puts them off, because they recognise it as a bit of a con? And that the only option is to replace it with another, slightly more expensive marketing ploy? Hmm. The old 'people are simultaneously stupid and smart' argument. Nice.

Here's my suggestion - in times of economic stress, punters, regardless of what the newspapers might want us to believe, don't really want to think about money, and thinking about a £4.95 purchase takes that little bit longer, and requires that little bit more intellectual investment than thinking about buying something for a fiver. We buy, we're gone, we're out. Of course, that's as fatuous as anything else suggested in the article, but I'd argue it's equally valid.

So pyschological pricing - not dead, just different?

*I'm not going to go into detail on what psychological pricing is here - the wikipedia article I've linked to does an extremely good job of that.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

A Call Of Arms To AdLand's Youth

When thoughts turn to what makes an Agency successful, there are a few ideas that always crop up: great creative work is an obvious one; strong and rigorous strategic thinking, the platform on which great creative work is built; strong leadership across all departments; and, naturally enough, a feisty account management department, to ensure that things actually happen. It goes without saying that the list could go on pretty much indefinitely. (I'd venture, for example, that a big telly with a Sky Sports subscription in the Account Management area is a must.) This post, though, deals with something that I think is too often overlooked.

Gossip. The true lifeblood of an Agency.

It may prove slightly contentious to say it, but I guarantee you that an Agency will produce better work, and will be a better place to work if it's constantly a-buzz with chat about who's shagging whom, which creative was seen leaving which restaurant with which account manager, which TV producer has the biggest drug problem (it's not all about sex) and which guy in traffic came into work with which junior art-buyer (ok, it's mostly about sex).

Case in point. Back at the end of the 90s, the London outpost of a massive global network (for the sake of anonymity, let's just call them Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper) was rumoured to have a rather strict policy on graduate recruitment - it is rumoured (rumoured, mind) that senior management took a very hands-on approach. Now, whilst I can't speak for the veracity of that particular rumour, what was certainly true was that it was, as an Agency, rife with gossip, and that it was (as has been pointed out elsewhere) pretty hot as an agency. Nowadays there's less shagging and less heat. Coincidence?

There are of course exceptions - at Fallon, for example, the Suits are all too knackered from the 16 hour days to sleep with each other, and they still manage to churn out the odd good ad from time to time. (They're obviously not entirely gossip-free - just ask their traffic department about last year's Christmas trip abroad.) But for the most part:

Great agency = exciting place to work = excited people = fabulous gossip generation

All I'm suggesting in this post is that there's no reason why that equation can't work just as well if you read it from right to left as if you read it from left to right.

Of course, there reaches a point where it all becomes a bit seedy - nobody wants to see Creative Directors, MDs or CEOs in their 50s indulging in shenanigans with colleagues half their age. That's all a bit horrible, a bit unnecessary, a bit grubby, and the industry would be a better place if it didn't happen - that's certainly not what I'm advocating.

But there aren't many industries that have quite such a high concentration of young, interesting attractive people, nor are there many industries that offer quite so many opportunities to get drunk, often for free - which is why, I think, a lack of gossip can have such a hugely demotivating effect. Why on earth aren't these people getting drunk and getting off with each other? Us older folk played our parts back in the day - now it's your turn.

Because maybe it's me, but the whole industry feels a little flat at the moment. With Bellwether telling us that we're all screwed (and that we will be for ages), with Tango deciding that making
14 year old boys snigger is more important than producing classic, timeless advertising, and with 15 year old geeks running the world, AdLand needs you more than ever. So if you're young, single and work in advertising, I implore you - go out, get drunk, get whatever, get off with the wrong people, sleep with the right people, and get people talking. Your Agency and the industry within which you work will be a better place for it.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Poll Results - And Those Pesky Teenagers

So, somewhat fittingly, it seems that the readers of ALS are of the view that the Ashes are more likely to get cancelled because of Mr Flintoff's fondness for a tipple than they are to produce a winner. Let's hope you're right - in second place was a rather crushing (and based on the majority of the Cardiff test, realistic) victory for the Aussies. Drink up, Fred - your country needs you.

And so, a new poll. If you're a regular reader of this blog, or indeed any newspaper, you'll have discovered this week, amongst other pretty harrowing insights, that teenagers aren't on twitter. Which begs the question - where the bloody hell are they? And what are they doing there? And since when is it possible to get A*s at A level?

Poll is in the lefthand column, usual format applies. Enjoy.

Understanding Newspapers - Quick Media Tip

Just a very quick one from me today, as things are fairly manic, it can't decide whether it's sunny or raining outside, and I'm gradually convincing myself that I've got swine 'flu. (I almost certainly haven't got swine 'flu. Though I undoubtedly will have it at some point this summer, as we all will. In fact, you probably contracted it and recovered while you were reading that last sentence. Congratulations.)

Anyway - to business. I haven't really spoken about the world of media very much before, but it's something a good Suit will need to know about, and be able to discuss at length. More detailed posts will follow, but for now, we're going to kick off with a cut-out-and-keep guide to the old school world of the UK tabloid newspaper market, using the story of the 'London Black Cab Rapist' to help demonstrate the differences between the different publications. Here's a quick rundown of the tabloid front page headlines the day after the somewhat unsavoury chap was sentenced:

The Daily Mirror: "London Black Cab Rapist: 100 Victims"

The Sun: "London Black Cab Rapist: 200 Victims"

The Daily Mail: "London Black Cab Rapist: 500+ Victims"

The Daily Express: "Low Energy Lightbulbs Give You Cancer"

So, dear readers, next time you find yourself in a conversation about which publications are most suitable for your brand, you will have all of the information you need. And unless your brand is one that particularly appeals to scared, racist old people (Little Chef, for example) then stear clear of the Express.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Bankers Enter The World Of The Teenager, Swiftly Realise That It's Scary And Confusing

I'm sure that you have been overwhelmed, as I have, by the breadth of coverage given to the writings of one Matthew Robson, a Morgan Stanley intern, in the last couple of days. If you have managed to avoid it, than (a) you're extremely lucky, and (b) you should have a look at this before you read any further.

So first - to Matthew. Young Mr Robson, God bless his mother-bought cottons, recently undertook two weeks work experience at
Morgan Stanley. Work experience (or 'internships', as they seem to be known nowadays) is no longer the luxury, or indulgence it was when I was a nipper - it's now a vital, and indeed compulsory element of the curriculum. And fair play to the lad - banking's a fairly interesting place to be at the moment.

Whilst there, Matthew wrote a paper on the media consumption of teens. Again, fair enough. I've asked work experience monkeys (or 'interns') to do similar things. It sounds like quite a fun project, and it certainly would have kept him quiet for a couple of days. The mistake that his supervisors made, as I'm sure you've all already guessed, was not just to read what he'd written, but to take it seriously. Oh dear.

I don't think it would be too cruel of me to suggest that a fifteen year old who chooses to spend his summer working at Morgan Stanley is not entirely representative of the UK's teen population.

It might be a little more cruel (but not wholly unreasonable) to suggest that, in the vernacular of MY youth, a fifteen year old who chose to spend his summer at Morgan Stanley might be 'a bit of a loser'.

It would almost certainly be cruel of me to suggest that if Matthew spent a little less time locked up in his bedroom talking to his 'friends' whilst playing Call Of Duty, he might look a little bit less translucent, and he might one day dare to dream of kissing a girl. (The inverted commas on 'friends' were definitely cruel.)

But enough of Matthew. He knows not what he does. Hell, I'm twice his age, and I'm still chucking my precocious views on this, that, and indeed the other all over the interweb as if I have half a clue what I'm talking about. And if his claim that "by the second week [he] felt he really knew what a bank did" is valid, then he's a long way ahead of most of the bankers who seemed to think that entailed spending the last 20 years screwing the economies of the Western World into the ground. (Unless, of course, that's what Matthew means.)

The embarrassment in all of this, and the bit that's driven me to post, is just how ludicrous the adult reaction to his (brace yourself) 'insight' has been. For the love of God, people - get a grip. Let's have a quick look at those 'insights', shall we? (I'd ask you to imagine the inverted commas around the word 'insight' for the rest of this post.)

Insight No. 1. Teenagers aren't on Twitter. No, they're not. But we knew that. Twitter is populated by people who work in advertising, people who work in marketing, or people who used to work in advertising or marketing, lost their jobs, and now have to describe themselves as 'Social Media Consultants' who can DEFINITELY make me millions. And that's fine.

Insight No. 2. A lot of teenage decisions are cost-driven. Well, smack me down and call me Susan. This changes EVERYTHING.

Insight No. 3. Teenagers don't use phones - they talk to each other on-line while playing Call of Duty. Well... Almost. The reality is, of course, that this has nothing to do with teenagers - Gamers talk to each other on-line while playing Call of Duty. They also don't kiss girls until they're in their late 20s. These aren't insights so much as Universal And Eternal Truths.

I could carry on, but this is turning into an attack on Matthew and his life again, which is really not the point. The point is the ridiculous glee with which the supposedly adult world (and specifically the financial sector) has leapt on all of this. It's Christmas Day, little Tommy has just unwrapped a pair of walkie-talkies, and the drunk grandads and uncles have got all over-excited because they don't need to be linked by bits of string.

So, if anyone at Morgan Stanley is reading this, can I humbly offer this 'insight': please stop worrying about Twitter, stop worrying about on-line gaming, stop worrying about Facebook, and stop worrying about fifteen year olds. Your job, for which you are extremely well-remunerated, is to worry about banking - and perhaps, dare I say it, to work out exactly what it is that banks should be doing. If Matthew Robson can crack it in a fortnight, it shouldn't take you guys more than a couple of years.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Something Awful For A Friday II

Having shared with you the unalloyed misery that is cricketing clown Phil Tufnell (Tuffers to the great unwashed) making a complete arse of himself in the name of Marmite, it's only fair that I share this piece of unspeakable horror with you today.

This is the video for the official Barmy Army Ashes Anthem (I believe that's how the press release described it). For the uninitiated, the Barmy Army are either, (a) an official England cricket supporters club, a powerful business entity, and a damn good laugh, or (b) a damning indictment of the democratisation of cricket as a sport: no longer is a test match the preserve of well-educated, well-spoken, well-mannered individuals; instead, every day out at any test anywhere in the world will now be haunted by a relatively large group of fat, topless men, downing cheap lager and singing, "BARMY ARMY! BARMY ARMY!" over and over again, until everybody, everywhere is dead. (Sadly, that hasn't happened yet.) If you'll indulge me one last analogy, it's like going to watch Newcastle United playing football, except it last for 8 hours. And the songs aren't funny. And you can't laugh at Michael Owen.

Anyway, the video's been directed by Malcolm Green, former Song & Dance Maestro (or ECD, to use the accepted terminology) at DLKW, and if you look closely you might just spot that everybody in the video is an utter cock. You can buy the song on iTunes - you know, if you really, really hate yourself - or you can just do the decent thing, watch the video, express your anger with the fourteen year olds on YouTube and then get on with your life, safe in the knowledge that whatever you do, and whoever you are, you are a better person than every single person involved in the creation of this sub-Keith Allen, wannabe-Vindaloo monster-toss. Well done, you.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Blur Headlining The Ashes

Well, not really. But it's a very tenuous way of linking the poll that's just ended, and the one that's just begin. So, according to the extremely dubious methodology of the sidebar poll, Blur would headline your dream festival, with Oasis a close (and nostalgic) second. Nobody would want to see Take That (which is heartening), nor would they wish to see the might Angus Young (which is surprising - but relieving).

And so - the new poll. Quite simply, how do you see the Ashes panning out? England taking the Ashes back, Australia dominating and returning down South with the replica or a hard-fought draw. Voting, as they say, is now open.

Not Good Enough To Try Harder

Well, kids, after four years of bliss/stubborn refusal to acknowledge Ashes series that take place outside of this hemisphere, it's on again. The Aussies are back, and this time we're taking them on in my backyard - the picturesque, idyllic, and impossible-to-park-anywhere-near Sophia Gardens (assuming their more romantic name for the next 5 days to avoid a massive enviro-punch-up between Swalec, the sponsors of the stadium, and providers of the light by which I was weened, and N-Power, the sponsors of the Ashes, and providers of Fancy Dress Saturday). Finally we can stop talking about the increasingly inescapable (and occasionally preposterous) advertising, stop prevaricating about the impact of Brett Lee's side, Steve Harmison's mental state and Monty Panesar's mind-numbing predictability, and get down to business. Here's hoping that in ten hours time we'll be discussing a series-defining performance from Andrew Strauss/KP/Jimmy Anderson, and that Pidgeon's already moving to qualify his traditional 5-0 prediction.

For now though, I thought I'd leave you with a word from Mr Frederick Flintoff, Guest Editor of this morning's really rather good Sport Magazine Ashes Special, on the preponderance of mind games - specifically, why they don't work on him: "You know what? I'm not good enough to try harder against somebody else - I try my best every time... I'm trying to win the Ashes. That's hard enough." There's a lesson for all of us in the word's of the nation's favourite doughty Lancastrian (favourite, that is, unless he chooses to fall off a pedalo or break his alarm clock again), and if I wasn't so excited about the Ashes, I'd go into it in some detail. As it is, suffice to say that none of us should be good enough to try harder - if we're not giving it everything all of the time then we're not doing our jobs, and things will go wrong.

Now. Back to the cricket. See you on the other side.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Poll Results

So - it would appear that the majority of those who took the time to vote believe that I work for BBH. As such, as far as ALS is concerned, I now work at BBH. Whether it's true or not remains, sadly, for me to know.

As you can see, there's now another, musically-themed poll on the left - one last attempt to get the weekend out of my system...

A Very Quick Glasto Review

Anyone who has the misfortune of following me on Twitter might have noticed that I spent the weekend in a field in Somerset, drinking too much cider, folk singing with hippies, and getting far too emotional about Britpop stalwart reunions. And it was awesome. So I won't go on about it anymore - once you've finished reading this 'Glastonbury - The Highs And Lows' post, you won't hear any more from me about it. Probably. So, let's get to it.

The 'I'm Actually Feeling Too Shaky To Tweet' Moment
Blur. And specifically, 'For Tomorrow'. That wasn't necessarily the best song of the night, or even the most emotional moment, it was just the point when I realised that I was watching one of the greatest bands of my generation, playing one of their greatest songs, as part of a set that all together soundtracked pretty much every important moment of my youthful life, that I might never get the chance to see them again, that I'd drunk an awful lot of rosé, and that it was all just a little bit too much. Damon, Graham, Alex, Dave - I salute you, and, in all sincerity, I thank you.

The 'This Was Definitely A Mistake' Moment
There weren't too many of these, but thinking that Rolf Harris was a good way to shake off the Saturday morning hangover was a mistake that was unfortunately shared by night on 120,000 other people. Gridlock in the Jazz World arena in 32 degrees heat is probably the closest I've come to death in recent years. And Rolf's incessant cheeriness didn't help. No offence, Rolf, but you can stick your f*ckin' kangaroo down-under. (PS In a weird moment of Adland serendipity, I might just be recording a radio ad with Rolf on Friday, so I can tell him exactly how I feel...)

The 'This Is What Glastonbury's All About Cliché' Moment
Learning an olde-Somerset folk song and dance in the Green Futures field. That's all you need to know.

The 'This Is What I'd Hoped Glastonbury Would Be All About' Moment
Turning cartwheels in the rain in the Jazz World Arena with people I'd just met. Cider is a wonderful thing.

The 'Almost The Best Moment' Moment
Pete Doherty's 'Special Guest' appearance at the Queen's Head. If the swine had bothered to turn up, it would have been amazing. By the finest of margins...

The 'Magical Glastonbury Moment' Moment
The Maccabees, Lego, The Other Stage, the sun coming out, tens of thousands of people cheering as one. On the TV, it probably looked like over-emotive nonsense. It wasn't.

The 'These Guys Are Actually Quite Good' Moment
There were quite a few of these: Lily Allen was a very pleasant surprise; The Wombats made up for Doherty's no-show by being utterly off their faces and utterly, utterly sparkle-shine fantastic; Park Bench Poet trapped me through awkwardness (I was literally the only one listening when they started playing in the Green Fields on Friday night) and then kept me captive with their honesty, warmth and awkward charm - I highly recommend; and finally, Crosby, Stills and Nash, who weren't exactly new to me, I'd just never really given a toss - I probably should have done.

The 'Biggest Let Down' Moment
The Boss. Self-absorbed, self-obsessed, self-consciously 'massive' and Too Sodding Long. I tried, Bruce, I really tried, but you bored the crap out of me.

The 'If My Mum's Mood Swings Were A Band, They'd Sound Like This' Moment
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Sorry, kids, but I just don't get it. If I wanted to listen to an angry woman screaming at me, I'd just forget Mrs ALS's birthday.

The 'Glorious Antidote To All That Bloody Positive Energy' Moment
The transcendent Nick Cave lifted up the Pyramid Stage, span it round, tore it up and vomited it out, all over a breathless, ecstatic crowd. I pray to whatever God he does believe in that this man never cheers up.

The 'Moments And Things That Defy A Pithy Title' Moments
Sleeping in Green Fields; wearing two sets of headphones and dancing like an idiot in the Silent Disco; refusing to believe that MJ had died for a good day and a half - I'd also heard that Girls Aloud were going to appear with Nick Cave, so you can understand my reticence; the aforementioned Cave dedicating a song to "the late... great... wonderful... Farrah Fawcett", which was far and away the cleverest MJ gag I heard all weekend; Madness in general; the lovely chaps who did a reggae version of 'Sgt. Pepper' on Sunday morning; reading the papers at 10am on Sunday, in front of the Pyramid Stage; the hideous workplace flashbacks as a bunch of hippy, brummie bikers decided to try and conduct an impromptu 'meeting' up by the stone circle - they didn't even know what a contact report was; rekindling friendships that had been left, erm, unkindled for far too long; the completely mental Trash City; and a million and one others...

It was awesome. It was unforgettable, especially the bits that I can't remember. Thanks to everyone who helped make it quite so messy - see you all next year.