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.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

See you all in a fortnight

For a variety of reasons, it's been quite a 2010, and so I'm buggering off for a fortnight to dive, read, eat and sleep. I'm not Dave Trott (thankfully), so I won't be checking comments, tweets or emails whilst I'm gone, but that doesn't mean that I won't be thinking of you lovely people. I just won't be thinking about advertising. I haven't posted for a while, but rest assured, my enthusiasm for all things ALS remains unbated. Expect a bumper batch of posts when I return, including ads I wish I'd made and, conversely, why the work doesn't matter if you're a Suit. But that's for then. I really need to pack now. This, incidentally, is what I'll be reading while I'm away.

Ta-ta for now. x

PS Sometimes I over-punctuate. I'm ok with that.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

The Fringe And Some Random Niceness

This was originally going to be a very different post. As planned, I write this on the train on the way back from Edinburgh, having just spent 30 odd hours at the Fringe. The plan was that I'd have watched several shows and would now be writing several hundred words on each of them, making and breaking the careers of the protagonists as I went. (You know, or not.) Unfortunately, a couple of things happened which changed the plan somewhat.

The first, on which I'll spend little time, was the cricket. I couldn't ignore it. And so, having traveled up to Edinburgh from London, I spent an awful lot of time sitting in a pub watching sport that was happening in London. And then we won the Ashes. That, my friends, was 'time well spent'. And I apologise to the stand-ups whose shows I neglected because of that. I did see Laura Solon, who was awesome, and Dan Antopolski, who was VERY funny when he was funny, and talked too much about his kids when he wasn't. If you're up next weekend, see both of them. But especially Solon.

The second issue was an idea I had yesterday - Fringe postcards. I've been thinking quite a lot about online relationships of late, and this came about through that. Essentially, my thinking is this. I really quite like a lot of the people I interact with through this blog, and through Twitter. From the outside, it may well appear that the relationship I have with them is a slightly odd one - for one thing, they don't (apart from a fairly random few) know who I actually am. But that's one of the joys of the internet, as far as I'm concerned: the relationships I have aren't based on anything other than the fact that I like reading what people have to say, and talking to them, and they reciprocate in turn. They may not know my real name, but we talk about real things, share genuine emotions, and bicker occasionally. It's all really quite lovely, in a tediously 21t Century kind of way.

And, whilst getting an email, a comment or an @reply is a very nice thing, to my mind nothing quite beats getting something through your letterbox. That's your actual letterbox, in the front door of your house. Or flat. Or palace. Or whatever.

I had an idea. I thought, as I sat, fairly bored, on a train from London to Edinburgh, that it would be nice to send these people a postcard. I'd love to claim that there was some kind of underlying motive to it all, but there wasn't. I like them, and I wanted to do something nice. And so I tweeted, at around 10am on Saturday, that I'd send a postcard from the Fringe to anyone who DM'd me an address before 1pm. And then quite a lot of DMs arrived.

So I spent yesterday afternoon writing postcards to everyone who wanted one. In the process, I discovered that it's harder than you might think to buy postcards in Edinburgh. (And don't get me started on stamps.) The writing took a fair while, but it was strangely satisfying. As I've said, I don't just appreciate the people who choose to read this blog or follow me on Twitter, I genuinely like (most of) them, and this seemed like a nice thing to do. I posted cards to all parts of the UK, to Denmark, France, Italy, Spain, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand (my timing was bad for the US - I'll plan the next one better, promise), and I hope they're as good to receive as they were to write.

And so there we are. If you wanted a postcard, let me know that it arrived, and, if you feel like indulging me, tweet a photo of you with it wherever you are. That would be lovely. But the main thing was that I just wanted to say hi. And I don't think getting a postcard is ever a bad thing. Yes, it means that a fairly large number of people now know that my handwriting is a touch embarrassing, but it also means... well, it means that those people got a postcard and that they know that I genuinely enjoy (not 'value'. Enjoy. I think the difference is rather important.) the relationship that we have. On balance, I think that's probably a pretty good deal.

If I was any good at ad-blogging, I'd now share some observations on brands' digital behaviour, and the importance of involving people in the conversation. But that would be boring. If you asked for a postcard, one is on its way. Because we should all care about what people think of us, and we should all do what we can to be nice. Andd because you're ace. That's the point.

PS I'm on holiday for a fortnight from next Sunday - I'm thinking about doing the same thing from there. But slightly bigger. Even if it's just because there's more time for people to get involved. Let me know in the comments if you fancy a postcard from somewhere slightly further afield than Edinburgh.

Friday, 14 August 2009

AdLand Suit - 50 Posts In

Well, it's now five and half months, 56 posts, two beers, a couple of brilliantly awkward telephone interviews, a lot of emails and one post of the month award (of which I am inordinately proud - if your content's not up to scratch, turn it into a popularity contest) since I first posted on ALS. I can admit now that I wasn't sure at the outset quite where this blog would take me, whether I'd interest myself enough to continue writing and whether I'd write anything interesting enough to get people reading. I'm pretty pleased with how it's worked out.

My initial thinking was fairly clear: blogs are good, important and useful sources of information, that can help guide and influence the thinking of our industry; there are currently no blogs of note written by Suits; this is a bad thing. So I started to write one. I think I originally created AdLand Suit as a character - he wasn't just going to be a Suit, he was going to be every Suit since the dawn of time. Needless to say, that didn't last. Not because it was overly ambitious, I don't think, but just because it was a rubbish idea. If my initial point was that it's a shame Suits aren't blogging, then setting up what would essentially have been a spoof blog would have been a very odd response. So the reality is that AdLand Suit is just a pseudonym - he's me, writing about my life, my views, my experiences, and even meeting and talking to people as me, but a me with a different name, as the few who know me in both guises will testify. And it's been brilliant. I've enjoyed the writing, I've enjoyed the discussion the writing has provoked and I've enjoyed meeting and talking to people that I wouldn't have come across without the blogging. Writing ALS has been, and continues to be an incredibly rewarding experience, and has hopefully been of use to some of the people that read it.

So why aren't more Suits doing it? In the first post I wrote, I set out some fairly facetious (and certainly defensive) reasons as to why it might be, and I still don't believe any of them are valid. I believe now even more that Suits have a voice that should be heard, and that the industry would benefit from the opportunity to hear it. So where are they? Is it possible, as the total-pussycat-in-real-life Colman suggested when I met up with him recently, that I'm just wrong? That Suits on the whole don't care about the work and their role in it, and that I'm one of the minority that's conceited and delusional enough to think that I have something to say that's worth listening to? Obviously enough, I don't think so. (NB Colman doesn't either. I don't think.)

I think it boils down to two things: firstly, time; secondly, attitude. I'll deal with time first.

I'm not going to suggest that Suits are the busiest people in an Agency. Yes, we work sodding hard, but so do planners and creatives. As Ben rightly points out here, a creative's work doesn't end when they leave their office. (Neither does a Suit's, by the way, but that's by-the-by.) But I would argue that a Suit has a lot less influence over the structure of their day that either a planner or a creative. He or she will, as a general rule, spend more time in meetings and on conference calls that anybody else, and as a result will find it much harder to schedule in blogging time. I'm not suggesting for a moment that this should be a barrier to blogging (I'm sort of proof myself that it isn't exactly insurmountable), but if you're someone who's not exactly convinced that it's the best use of your time anyway then it's a pretty good excuse.

And that brings me to my second point - attitude. I have a feeling that there are two attitudes fairly prevalent amongst a lot of Suits: one, that blogging isn't really their world; and two, that it wouldn't necessarily be that useful to them if it was. For planners, blogging makes sense. It's a new space to explore thinking, to share ideas and to discuss concepts with likeminded or contrary people. For creatives, it's a chance to show off their ideas and bitch about the industry and their peers without having to actually go to the pub. (I'm teasing. Sort of.) But for Suits, the fit is less obvious. A Junior Suit will come straight from University, and he or she will be chucked in at the deep end of an extremely stressful industry. Nobody becomes a Suit because they want to be a businessman - they become a Suit because they want to work in advertising, and because they foolishly believe everything they read on blogs that claim being a Suit is the
best job in advertising (seriously though, it is). And then they don't get to do any of the fun stuff. Suddenly they have to worry about timing plans, contact reports, status reports, billing spreadsheets, maconomy and booking travel. After 14 years of 10 week summer holidays, they have to learn to deal with 20 days annual holiday and 70 hour weeks, and they don't even get to draw pictures. It's a hell of a lot to take on, and it's no wonder that blogging (either the reading or the writing thereof) doesn't feature that high up their list of priorities.

And that mindset can stick with you. Blogging is often frivolous, it is often facetious, and it's far too easy to forget that frivolity and facetiousness are a hugely important part of our industry. And when you have that beaten into you as an Account Exec, it's going to stick with you as an AM and beyond. If you want to be a Suit, the ad has to go out on time, you have to speak to the Clients before they get a chance to chase you and you have to know what problems are going to arise before they happen, and avoid them. But if you want to be a great Suit, you have to care about every aspect of the business, and that means challenging the way you think, analysing the way you and the industry perform, and taking every possible opportunity to learn from the people that are doing it right. As Mr McGuinness says, we Suits need to change the way we think, and the way we work, and blogging, whilst not the answer, is a pretty good start. People don't expect Suits to blog, they don't expect them to be commenting on creative blogs, and they don't expect them to care as much about the work as the creatives do. We have to prove them wrong. Which is, to be frank, a brilliant brief. It's not about challenging for the sake of challenging, it's not about being the smug, obstreperous git in the corner, and it's not about forgetting the fundamentals of Account Handling - everything still needs to run smoothly, everything still needs to go out on time, and great concepts have to be sold before they can become great ads. It's about challenging yourself to be better than you are. And if blogging can help you do that, then it's quite simple - make time, and get blogging. It doesn't matter if nobody reads it if it's making you better at what you do.

So, Jerry Maguire moment over, where next for ALS? I'm working on a few things, particularly attempts to grow the Suit community on-line (check us out on Facebook - hey, it's a start) and then to take that off-line, looking at real world meet-ups/conferences/whatever. The writing will of course continue, and hopefully continue to be useful. And that's where I'd love your input - how would you like to see ALS develop, or change? What should I be writing about more? What should I be writing about less? Let me know in the comments, and I'll either act on it, or I'll ignore you. Either way, your thoughts will be appreciated.

So, in short, I'm loving writing ALS, I'm loving the relationships I've formed and am forming as a result of it, and I'm loving what I've learned as a result. Thank you for reading and being a part of it. Now stop pissing about on blogs and get back to work.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Suits Laid Bare - Andrew McGuinness

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to catch up with Andrew McGuinness, founding partner of Beattie McGuinness Bungay, and one of London and Adland's most renouned Suits. (Apologies that it's taken me so long to post it, but real life gets in the way. I have new theories on why the blogosphere is awash with Planners and Creatives but so bereft of Suits - but they can wait.) Now, Andrew's featured on ALS before - he has strong views on the Suit's role in an Agency, and as such has been a man that I've been keen to talk to for a while. Here's how it went.

ALS: Andrew - good morning! To start us off, how did you end up working in advertising? Were you one of those people who claim to have loved adverts since they were a toddler, or did you just stumble into it?

AM: Probably somewhere in between, to be honest. My Dad worked on trade press, so when I was a kid we used to get a lot of random shit coming through the door - Cranes Today, that kind of thing. The sort of specialist publications you see on Have I Got News For You. One of those magazines was Marketing Week - and I was absolutely fascinated by the idea that you could earn a living doing that. At first I thought you had to be a client, but I eventually worked out that wasn't the case. I worked at a DM Agency before I went to University, when I didn't really know what DM was, but I enjoyed it, I got promoted and it paid well - I was a Suit at the age of 17. I ended up on the graduate scheme at JWT, where I was very much the runt of the litter - no silver spoon in my mouth...

ALS: And after JWT, you went off to M&C in Sydney - how did you find life over there, and how would you say advertising in Australia differs from the UK?

AM: The Sydney thing was, as with a lot of my career decisions, basically very, very lucky. I'd met my wife-to-be shortly after we'd both been travelling, and we'd always said we'd go back to Australia - I'd been at JWT for 5 or 6 years, and the timing was right. I spent two years working my bollocks off over there. It was a period of intense work, and of great worth. I worked with a guy called Simon Corah, legend Suit and a great mentor, who taught me a huge amount - and I would still say that the UK can learn an awful lot from how things are done over there. First off, partly because it's a smaller market, they've been doing integration for years. There is no ATL/BTL division - you just get on with it. Secondly, you do tend to deal with tighter budgets, which means canny production solutions. There's a myth that people work less hard in Australia, which is just nonsense. Yes, it's a great lifestyle, but you do a hell of a lot of work. And M&C was great for me - because it was a growing company with a fairly flat structure, there were lots of opportunities, which I made the most of.

ALS: So would you say going to Australia was the best career decision you've made?

AM: The honest answer is that I've been extremely lucky with most of my career decisions: getting into JWT was lucky; going to M&C in Sydney and working with Simon was lucky; coming back to TBWA, becoming MD after a year and CEO after two years was bloody lucky! And the opportunity to do our own thing, to develop our own values and work at BMB is incredibly energising. Overall, I'd say it's been a combination of luck and getting my head down, more than any great planning.

ALS: Let's talk about BMB for a moment. It's obviously doing very well. Where is that success coming from?

AM: When you're running your own place you find out very quickly how good you are - there's nowhere to hide, and there's no bullshit, which is incredibly liberating. I think we started at a great time - what Clients want is changing, and a start-up is inherently future-facing, entirely unencumbered by the past. The future is uncertain at the moment, and we have a bunch of people who get that, and are extremely excited about it. Too many people look back - we're too busy looking forward. The idea that I'm most proud of would have to be the iPint - it's an example of thinking differently.

ALS: What idea have you been involved with that you're most proud of? And which idea do you wish you'd had?

AM: I'm most proud of the iPint - it's different thinking, a way of communicating with the audience in a cost efficient fashion. There's no media owner involved, it's a direct, pleasurable conversation. And my most envied idea (though I think it could have been better executed) is the 'Best Job In The World' campaign [for Queensland Tourist Board]. A simple idea with next to no media behind it, it generated its own noise.

ALS: So - to Suits. Who's the most influential Suit you've ever worked with, and what do you think the future holds for Suits?

AM: Simon Corah would be the most influential - I met him at the right time in my career, and he's a fantastic Suit. He was very entrepreneurial and very business savvy. Extremely good strategic thinker (he could easily have been a planner), and a real leader and energiser of people. I had the time of my life working with him, soaking up everything I could.

I think a lot of that is relevant to the second part of the question. Suits need to be entrepreneurial now more than ever, and that's a big shift - the skill set is changing, even from three or four years ago. We need to be deal-makers and revenue drivers, for the Agency and for the Client. This is new, and will change the type of people that thrive in the job. We need to adapt, or we'll die - it's not enough to sell, or share other peoples' ideas anymore. We need to be idea generators ourselves - how do we get this programme made, how do we persuade the director to do this... It's an extremely exciting time to be a Suit.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Back On The Bike

Some mentalists

This morning I cycled into work for the first time in a fairly long time. I'll be honest, I've been fairly lax of late. For a variety of reasons, finding the energy to leap out of bed at 6.15 and start cycling up a steep hill has proved fairly tough. There have been real life reasons, but the biggest impact on my cycling career (this is my story, and I'm sticking to it) has been something that I'm going to call 'The Tour De France Effect'.

I'll keep this short. We're all familiar with 'The Wimbledon Effect', where every family in Britain spends the second half of July playing tennis after having spent the first half watching it - and it's fairly easy to understand why. Wimbledon makes tennis look fun, classy and (importantly) like something you could do. There's a grace to professional tennis players (particularly in the men's game), a style or elan that makes the nigh on impossible look easy. They make you think, "I could do that." And so you try. And fail. And put the rackets back under the stairs until next July.

But 'The Tour De France Effect' is different. Firstly, those cyclists make you feel incredibly small. It's hard to feel proud of your 8 mile commute into work (even if it is incredibly hilly) when you then have to watch the 200km sprints, where they coast along, chatting, drinking and having a laugh, as if cycling 200km isn't enough to kill most people stone dead. And secondly, when it's hard, they really don't make it look easy or enjoyable - the agony on the face of Contador, Armstrong, Wiggins or one of the other, more rubbish ones is not inspiring. It does not say, "Hey! You could do this! Get cycling!" Rather, it says, "Cycling's for mentalists! Get out! Get out while you still can! RUN!!!"

And so I stopped cycling. And am blaming the Tour De France for it. But no longer.

The accumulated fitness was disappearing, so I'm back on the bike. You might be able to beat cancer, Armstrong, but you can't beat me.

Monday, 10 August 2009

A Light Snack For A Monday

So, it's festival time in Edinburgh. Yes, if you live there, that means everything just became a lot more expensive, the Royal Mile just became even less practical than usual and all the joke shops have sold out of white face paint, as every single mime in Europe dashes out of Waverley in complete and utter silence. However, if you don't, it's bloody brilliant. In fact, a lot of people will only ever know Edinburgh from the festival in the summer ("Right, we have to make a choice - it's a play about rape in the Balkans, or it's Michael McIntyre. No, I can't face McIntyre either.") or extreme alcoholism in extreme cold for Hogmanay. I know which I prefer.

Stand-up has long been a bit of an obsession of mine - it's still one of the best (if not the only) ways of having a great night out in London for less than a tenner - so I thought I'd celebrate the Festival with a quick and fairly lazy post (lazy in that I'm not even going to review them - I'm just showing you videos), showcasing three of the best (in my extremely humble opinion) stand-ups that this year's Fringe has to offer. And so, in no particular order.

First up, Dan Antopolski. The more accessible Daniel Kitson, he's extremely sharp and extremely funny. And look, he makes jokes about sandwiches! You can catch Dan for the next three weeks at the Pleasance Dome.

Secondly, the quite lovely Laura Solon, the last ever winner of the Perrier, back in 2005. If you've seen Laura, it was probably in the slightly disappointing Laura, Ben & Him on ITV2, the highly questionable Ruddy Hell, It's Harry & Paul, or the execrable Al Murray's Multiple Personality Disorder - but be fair, a girl's got to pay the mortgage. Solon is first and foremost an achingly original character comic of the highest, highest order - she's good on the radio, but live is where she really comes into her own. You can catch her at the Assembly Rooms on George Street.

Finally, the magnificent Rhod Gilbert - nominated for last year's If.comedy (the Perrier-replacement), Gilbert is back with the fabulously monikered, "Rhod Gilbert And The Cat That Looked Like Nicholas Lyndhurst", which you can catch at the Pleasance Courtyard. There are a couple of Rhod clips here for you - the second one, at the Royal Variety Performance, is quite long, but worth the effort for the 'Could you be in the Navy?' routine alone.

And that's that. If you're up in Edinburgh over the next month then we might just bump into each other, and I'll buy you a beer at the Pleasance - I'm trying to sort my diary out today. Either way, let me know how you get on, and if there are any shows I need to check out when they come back down to London.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Eleven Quick Thoughts On Clients

1. The Client is the most important person in any given process. Whether we like it or not, he or she holds the purse strings, and if they're not happy the work doesn't get made.

2. Making the Client happy absolutely does not always mean doing exactly what the Client wants.

3. Sometimes the Client knows best. The Suit (or Agency) that believes the Client is always wrong is a moron.

4. Never, ever lie to the Client. You will never get away with it, and you will look like an idiot. And if you have a relationship worth its salt, you shouldn't need to.

5. Clients are a bit like sandwiches: some will be good; some will be bad; most of them will be fine. Savour the ones that are brilliant.

6. Clients will never understand the BACC. That's one of the main things they pay us for.

7. A Client should look forward to meetings with the Agency - they're the meetings that involve the fewest spreadsheets. ("Picture Meetings", as a Client of mine describes them.) It's your job to earn that.

8. Liking your Client isn't important. Respecting him or her is.

9. With Clients, as with 'normal people', the little things matter - if a Client takes sweeteners in tea, make sure there are sweeteners in the meeting room. (I'm aware this is the most old school of points. But it matters.)

10. Sometimes, Clients will be so infuriating it will make you want to cry. The best way to reassure yourself at this point is by remembering that they are thinking exactly the same about you. Only more often.

11. And the big secret - Clients are normal people (even if they wear red socks), and they want to make great work as much as you do. (What 'great work' means is a post in and of itself.)

This is obviously not an exhaustive list. There will obviously be exceptions. And there are obviously ommissions - please add away in the comments.