Ideas worth protecting

Last week we teamed up with our friends at Bircham Dyson Bell to hold our very first event for Social Media Week. Our very own Creative Director, Andy Bolter joined a panel of lawyers and investors to talk about our most precious possession – our ideas, and how to go about protecting them.

At Pepper we have to worry about 2 things: protecting our Client’s work from leaving the office before it goes live, and protecting our own ideas before a Client buys them. As pointed out by a member of the audience, it is virtually impossible to protect an idea that’s inside your head. Whether that’s an idea for the next big ad campaign or a business idea that could revolutionise hot dogs. The idea is anyone’s until you have something tangible down on paper or in design. Then you can patent or copyright it and make it yours.

It won’t be long until the event will be up online but if you can’t wait that long, here are Andy’s golden words of wisdom on doing ‘Whatever it takes’ to protect your ideas from the get go:

  • Don’t base them on assumption. He’s seen ideas fail more times than Elvis had girlfriends, and why? Because 9 times out of 10 there isn’t anything to back them up. It’s very easy to fall in love with our ideas and it’s easier to convince ourselves that it will work than entertain the the notion that it might not. But as one of our clients likes to say “sometimes we have to kill our babies”
  • We can protect our ideas from failing by basing them on evidence. Make sure you know your stuff
  • It’s dangerous not to share ideas. You’ll soon find out if it’s been done before or if it has traction. But never share them with those closest to you – you won’t get the truth
  • Sadly luck pays a big part, so always keep a Leprechaun close by
  • Another panellist, Modwenna Rees-Mogg shared her best piece of advice for success: Focus on the problem, not the solution. Problems change.

We’d like to give a massive thank you to Kevin Poulter, Head of Social Media Employment at BDB for holding the event and getting us involved. We had a great time and look forward to more collaborations in the future.

And don’t forget the most golden of rules for ideas…

If you haven’t paid for it, it’s not yours.

Vicky McGarvey,

Posting for popularity?

After attending Creative Social’s event last week, to celebrate the launch of their new book ‘Hacker, Maker, Teacher, Theif: Advertising’s Next Generation’, an off-the-cuff comment about social has been playing on my mind:

“Something that was designed to make our lives easier, is now consuming all of our time”.

Seems obvious, really. But it got me thinking. Life’s short, so why are we spending our lives looking down at our phones?

From Myspace to Facebook, nearly all social channels rely on one fundamental thing – our compulsive need to share information about ourselves. What we’re doing, how many years our parents have been married and who we’re dating is now common knowledge to just about anyone with an internet connection. All things that 10 years ago we’d only tell our closest friends.

For years all these social sites have had one thing in common – they’ve allowed us to share photos of anything from fireworks to our cat’s birthday party. Whatever it is – we love to show the world what we’re doing. Instagram have taken ownership of this by giving us a platform that’s solely dedicated to sharing photos that make our life look a hell of a lot more exciting than it actually is. Usually with the help of pretty filters and witty captions. And if we’re lucky, after composing the perfect post, we’ll get at least 10 likes.

We’re creating online versions of ourselves, and perhaps that’s our addiction. We filter out the bad stuff and over-sell the good in hope that perceptions of us change. We’re living in a world where popularity is judged on how many likes our photos get and how many followers we have on Twitter, or where attending the best party in the world would be ruined if we couldn’t share it online.

So something that Mark Zuckerburg may have designed to make our lives easier by connecting us with our peers, has now escalated into a world where we’re more disconnected than ever. So what is in the store for the next generation? There’s a question that makes me a little nervous.

Hacker, Maker, Teacher, Thief: Advertising’s Next Generation

Last night Two nights ago, myself, Vicky, Sam and Marta wandered over to DigitasLBi
for the launch of Creative Social’s second book; Hacker, Maker, Teacher, Thief: Advertising’s Next Generation (Yes, they had a first book, let’s say it was more of
a cult classic).

As soon as I saw the lineup, which was loaded with people I’d been inspired by and followed (online) during my student days, I got excited and sent an office-wide email asking if people wanted to go (that way I wouldn’t have to pay for my ticket). Flo Heiss, Dave Birss and Dave Bedwood were the advertising heads I was most looking forward
to seeing.

Flo Heiss and Dave Birss weren’t there and Dave Bedwood, despite being an entertaining host of Room 101, didn’t present.

But despite this, there was some stuff worth enthusiastically regurgitating, which I will
do here:

Introduction by Daniele Fiandaca, Co-founder of CreativeSocial
The beauty of our industry is that we don’t know what the future will look like. It’s an awesome time to be in the industry because we have the power to make it what we want it to be. How do we do this? Buy the book to find out, of course.

Talk number one; Seb Royce, Chief Creative Officer of Rockabox
Seb crammed what was probably a really good twenty-minute presentation into ten minutes. He spoke very quickly. However, despite talking for ten minutes without breathing, he made the following insightful points (illustrated by some freaky GIFs):

  • Routine kills creativity. It’s stifling. Creatives in the advertising industry must escape it. We can do this by getting out of the office and living a life.
  • The internet doesn’t let you taste, smell and touch. These senses trigger memories that in turn trigger connections between otherwise unrelated subjects – this is where the good stuff comes from (I added the bit in red, smart aren’t I). So get off the internet and go out into the real world.
  • Follow the ad gurus. People with more experience than you’ve had years on this earth. People like Dave Trott and Rory Sutherland – there’s a list of some smart people and blogs I follow at the end of this blog entry. You’ll learn a lot. This is probably where I got the bit in red from.
  • Do something you enjoy. This is called intrinsic motivation. It goes a long way to helping you produce your best work. And it links nicely to the theory of flow mentioned by Jake Attree and Laura Jordan Bambach in talk number four.

Talk number two; Mark Andersen, Co-founder and Managing Director
of We Love Digital
Mark’s talk was titled ‘Like I give a shit’. He obviously does give a shit. His key takeaway bits were:

  • Don’t try to be all things to all people. We, and brands, are spreading ourselves too thinly. We should take the time to make something of value, not size – something we can be proud of. He then quoted Mark Twain. I thought I’d remember it so I took a sip of my wine instead of writing it down. I can’t remember it. Sorry.
  • Rip up the corporate rule book and talk to people as a real person, not as a big, nasty corporation.
  • He then gave some good examples and some bad examples of brands taking the time to make something of quality.

Oreos are gay?

Spearmint Rhinos Australia uploaded a camcorder screenshot of a baby doing the splits. The caption read ‘guess the future stripper’. As if this idea wasn’t seedy enough, it didn’t take long for the people of twitter to notice the date on the image meant the ‘stripper’ was 14 years old at time of tweet. Dickheads!

Talk number three; Mark Earls, Founder of Herd Consultancy
Hello, I am a copycat was my favourite talk of the night. Well done Mark. Mark used Elvis to illustrate that we’re all copycats and the sooner we get over this fact, the better. Seriously, get over it! Mark obviously has an affinity with Elvis, which shows, as Mark really doesn’t give a shit about copying. Because, from his clothes to his music, Elvis was one big crazy copy cat – he never even wrote a song.

Mark pointed out that copying and originality are very similar. And that it’s okay to copy an original. But to copy a copier, well that’s just crap (he name-checked a French Elvis here. I, again, took another sip of my wine instead of writing it down).

Mark said copying helps make new things, here’s how:

  • We should embrace ‘error’. Error when copying is your friend because it creates something new. It kinda resembles evolution – where an ‘error’ can produce something spectacular. This reminds me of a Mark Twain quote I do remember; “Name the greatest of all inventors. Accident.” Bam! I’m on fire! But we must have a balance between error and order because a world full of error would be catastrophic. Pop music was born when some dudes messed about whilst copying old music and made it too fast. Someone said “that sounds good” and then we got The Beatles.
  • Copy from a distance. Mark used Team GB’s Dave Brailsford as the perfect example of how copying from other disciplines can benefit our own, such as washing your hands like a doctor – Dave’s cyclists went on to win bullions of gold medals at the 2012 Olympics.

See George Lois on his creation of the big idea and Everything is a remix for more good copying.

Talk number four; Jake Attree, Creative at Dare and Laura Jordan Bambach, Creative Partner at Mr President and President of DandAD
These two met at the mystical-sounding Hyper Island in Manchester. They talked about the psychological theory of ‘flow’, or Hyperconcentration or Hyperfocus. To briefly sum, this theory explains that period of time when you’re so deep in concentration (or, in my case, panic) that two hours passes like two minutes. Artists, writers, musicians can go a day without eating, drinking and pissing. Whilst in this state we can produce our best work, when the brain can make those magical leaps and connections that create error, accidents and original ideas. So, how do you get yourself into this state of flow?

  • Do something you’re passionate about. Werner Herzog said being excited when you work is good. If you’re passionate about your work, you’ll be excited and, in the case of the writer, the words will flow.
  • Create rituals – Laura likes wine in front of a crappy cop show, I like to run before work.
  • Create an environment you’re comfortable in. Some people like a silent, empty room, some people like the buzz of a busy office.

And when you are in this state of flow, don’t stop. This is hard to do in a world full of distractions. That email that just popped up on your screen, ignore it until you’ve finished reading this, dare you.

Procrastination is the enemy of flow. We all do it. My room at university was never cleaner than during exam period. Jake and Laura want us all to punch procrastination in the face. Go to (doesn’t seem to be working at the moment, it’s probably coming soon).

Talk number five; John V Wilshire, Founder of Smithery
Short, concise talks > Long, waffly talks.

John told us:
Making things people want > Making people want things.

That was about it.

Room 101 hosted by Dave Bedwood with a panel including Jon Burkhart, James Kirk, Marc Lewis and Daniele Fiandaca

You know how it works. Four panellists present something they hate, the host decides whether it deserves to go into the Ministry of Love’s torture chamber, Room 101. This one, of course, was related to advertising. I’m fully aware of how long this blog post is getting so I’m going to keep this super brief.

The two hates that Dave Bedwood awarded a kneecapping to were:

  • Clichés – such as using white, middle class, happy 2.4 families to advertise food. Or good-looking actors driving down long, winding roads in car adverts.
  • Badly-run internships – ones that only benefit those who can afford to live in London whilst being paid the equivalent of a bus fair. Although, since Dave has become an employer, he does find them very useful. Lolz all round.

A sort of conclusion
During Room 101, an audience member tried to defend clichés by saying they’re what the dumb general public want. This made me cringe my face off. The general public is not dumb – something Marc Lewis swiftly replied with and something I’m certain the rest of the room agreed with. Joe Bloggs and A. Person would certainly appreciate a little originality, whether it’s born from copying with error, killing your routine, living a life outside advertising, being human, spending time creating something of quality, punching procrastination in the face or making stuff people want. This is where I feel the future of advertising lies. I’m sure the book says this and a whole lot more way better than I ever could. So go buy it and find out for yourself.

Thanks Creative Social for another great night, I hope to get involved with you clever people sometime in the future.

People to follow and steal smart stuff from:
From Creative Social, click here for bios and twitter handles.

A selection from my bookmarks
Dave Trott @davetrott Dave’s blog
Rory Sutherland @rorysutherland
Simon Veksner Scamp
Farnham Street
Northern Planner
Canalside View
Brain Pickings

Daniel Simpson

An indulgent birthday

Everyone loves a good birthday celebration (unless there’s a clown involved). So when Magnum celebrate their 25th birthday by giving their fans the chance to create a bespoke ice-cream (one that was only available in the wildest of dreams beforehand), any self-respecting chocoholic would be bonkers not to attend.

They have set up camp in Selfridges and created the ‘Wonder Room’. A room which offers all those who enter the choice of 20,000 different Magnums – it’s up to you to create your favourite combination.

You pick the ice cream flavour, coating and sauce, all the way through to the toppings which range from the normal to the bizarre – and of course, you’re strongly recommended to share your experience on social media. If not you’ll miss out on winning some extra ice-cream delights.

They’ve taken over Selfridges’ world-famous window displays and are generating more love than ever for their brand. There’s no doubt that they’re doing ‘Whatever it takes’ to create user-interaction whilst earning themselves an extra chocolate coin or two. Happy birthday, Magnum!

Vicky McGarvey

The account handler is dead.

I’ve found a great way to save our clients time and money: do away with account handlers and let clients brief creative teams themselves.

Okay, I’m being glib.

But as client marketing teams continue to answer to procurement, the commoditisation of communications agencies can be easily dealt with by disposing of the most disposable of the agency team: the account handler.

Clients see account handlers as project managers. Pen pushers. Get-shit-doners. Who’s to blame for this attitude? Agencies are.

The problem stems from how agencies themselves see account handlers. Take a look through a few job specs from recruiters and see what phrases appear time and again. ‘Fantastic project management skills’; ‘Ensure work flows correctly and efficiently’; ‘Keeping on top of multiple projects’. If that’s what agencies are looking for, and it’s what they end up with, why would we expect our clients to consider account handlers to be worth more?

Whilst an account handler does need to have the ability to get stuff done (you know what I mean – timing plans, studio briefs, cost estimates and so on) they also need to do whatever it takes to create the right communication, for the right people, at the right time.

An account handler should have a special relationship with their client – working with them day-to-day to develop a deep, rich understanding of their wants, big issues and pet peeves. And this understanding will help them shape how they get the best for their client (not necessarily what they want, but definitely what they need).

An account handler needs to be curious – to get out into the world, with their head up, and eyes and ear open. What are your client’s competitors doing? What can you learn from their successes (and failures)? What’s going on with your client’s audience? How do they behave rationally, as well as emotively? How can you get them to do what you want them do to? What’s stopping them from engaging? What’s going on in the world of tech? How will this affect how they  communicate and interact?

An account handler that asks these questions (and answers them) will be able to identify trends, spot opportunities, challenge the norm, and most importantly – working with the planners, creative and developers – inspire the best ideas.

An account handler needs to take responsibility for developing ideas, starting with the creative brief. “Shit in, shit out” is a crude truism but worth remembering when writing a brief.

At Pepper, account handlers are encouraged to question and challenge ideas. It’s part of our creative philosophy. Every time we write a brief, WIP or present work, we follow a 5-point checklist to judge our work. The fifth point is ‘how can we improve it?’. If our work doesn’t make us whoop and holler with pride then we know we haven’t created the best work for our clients.

Perhaps more important than challenging ideas is for an account handler to challenge the client.

What’s the bigger picture? An account handler that understands the business intentions that drive their client’s marketing objectives will be best placed to create strategies and creative with bigger ambitions.

Most importantly of all: an account handler must champion clients within and without the agency.

An account handler should influence processes within agencies to improve them for clients. If it doesn’t work for your client, change it.

Understanding what your client needs, and collaborating closely with them, encourages a richer flow of ideas and new perspectives – instrumental to finding the right answer, quicker.

What client wants to dispose of an account handler that gives them all this?

The paper shuffler is dead.

Long live the account handler.

Ollie Gandy
Account Director 

Building a better future from the yard up.

Below is an article we wrote for Independent Thinking, a specialist magazine that focuses on the independent merchants.

In an industry built from bricks, sand and timber I don’t suppose there’s a dirtier word than ‘branding’. Which is a shame because out of all the tools at a company’s disposal their ‘brand’ should be the most powerful and effective for sustainable growth.

It wasn’t so long ago the independent yards only had to contend with the larger networks for customers. With the advent of the internet and the renewed focus towards builders by DIY chains like B&Q, the battle for shifting bricks has got ever more difficult.

New kids on the breeze-block like Amazon, traditionally a bookseller, are proving to be more than a distraction to the bottom line too.

Companies have no choice but to evolve, as customer expectation has risen to match the experiences they have grown used to in their personal lives. This is being exacerbated by the sophisticated selling techniques that the DIY chains learnt in the consumer market. And who knows where mobile marketing will end, with 75% of builders now using their phones to engage with their suppliers.

As the construction market rises to its feet, there has never been a better time to re-evaluate a brand’s worth.

The golden rule to remember is: ‘Your brand isn’t what you, your shareholders or your staff think it is. Your brand can only be what everybody else thinks it is.’ So in the mind of the customer, your brand will probably be judged by the last experience that they’ve had with it.

Which leads us nicely on to the other side of the counter or the desk. Staff are a company’s biggest asset: they are the ambassadors of your brand and play a large part in how a business is perceived. As you would expect, a helpful member of staff usually escalates in a customer’s mind, creating a helpful company. Obviously a bad experience can do the complete reverse.

Needless to say, for any brand to be successful it’s vital that all staff buy into it. And it’s fine to make your promise aspirational, but don’t make it unreachable. Any brand that makes promises it can never keep is guaranteed to fail in the long run. You can’t say it out loud, but trust is king in any industry.

So the first question. What do you stand for? We know Volvo stands for safety and reliability, Dulux want to add more colour to your world and Wickes guarantee a level of service and expertise by ‘putting their name on it’.

The important thing to remember when looking at a brand positioning is – it takes time for it to stick. The brands mentioned have spent a long time continually reinforcing their promise through every step of the customer journey, gradually building ‘long-term brand equity’.

With this in mind, if a company is looking at refreshing or revolutionising their brand they should start with the promise, use it as a measure, and then look at all the components from the logo to operations, keeping anything that measures up. There’s no business sense in throwing out any brand equity on a whim. But only keep the parts that measure up.

And when a company takes a brand audit, it’s vital they dig deep. They have to look past the logo and colours, they have to look at everything – even the operational side of the business. Companies have to look at the way they speak, interact and engage with staff, partners, suppliers and most importantly customers.

It’s not good enough for a business to tell people they ‘deliver fast and first time after time’ if they only have one delivery truck. It’s much better to say ‘we deliver on time, every time’, making sure an achievable delivery time is given with every order received. Companies have to do what they say, all the time, for trust to be built and sustained.

If a brand gets full commitment from everyone from the counter to the boardroom then there’s no telling what opportunities could arise. Think of a strong, distinct brand as adding extra teeth to your Mitre Saw. It becomes self-fulfilling. For example, companies with the best brands attract better people more consistently. And at a time when attracting new talent to the industry is proving to be difficult, lifting a company above the others suddenly becomes a sound investment.

Getting the brand right has a great impact on messaging and communication. It can give Builders Merchants more impetus to challenge for more work.

Companies that tackle the general apathy amongst builders towards sustainable and environmental issues could suddenly open up a new cash stream. Likewise, if a brand can really help Britain to build more by raising awareness of the government incentives on offer, they should see a positive difference to their profits.

So in essence, branding isn’t some fluffy word out of place in an industry born of brick, timber and steel. It’s the most powerful tool a business has at its disposal. And used properly it could help build a business that truly goes beyond the extra yard.

Andy Bolter is the creative director of Pepper Corporation, an independent, entrepreneurial, creative communications agency that does ‘Whatever it takes’ to create ideas that give brands more concrete for their foundations.

Free food with a tasty little twist

Fresh food markets are typically adorned with stalls selling everything imaginable to get your taste buds talking; from mouth-watering pastries to international cuisines. But the down side to these gourmet offerings that are popping up all over London? The price tag.

So, when I had the chance to grab tickets to The Little Market (a one-off FREE food market in Brick Lane) I would have been mad to turn them down. I was pre-warned that there would be some market research going on but apart from that all I had to do was turn up with my friends and reap the benefits of free food.

We arrived to a cornered off section of a nearby park that was safely protected by an unnecessary array of bouncers. We were hit with a wave of incredible smells as we walked in and were immediately overwhelmed with which free meal to choose from.
There were burgers, burritos, hot dogs and curries as well as wine, cheese, chocolate
and steak tasting.

The market was full of young professionals having a great time but it wasn’t long until we started to clock how this might not be your ordinary food market (apart from being free, of course). High tech cameras disguised inside hay barrels was our first clue, seconded by the camera men.

After sampling the food (which was genuinely delicious), the stall workers let us into their well-kept secret.

This genuinely delicious food was genuine Lidl food.

The Little Market was an event to showcase how great Lidl food is to an audience that
they would not normally reach. From where I was standing, they did ‘whatever it takes’ to ensure it was a great success. They picked an area booming with their desired TA and by not plastering their logo everywhere, they proved that their food is just as good as high-end markets for half the price.

To top it off, they were filming their new ad over the 3 day period so watch out; I may be making my acting debut on a TV screen near you (although I might be too busy shopping at Lidl to see it).

Vicky McGarvey

Take a step back and run

I’m running down the middle of the road and the heat is on. People are in tears. Broken bodies and bottles litter the pavements. Strangers drool and hug each other, and locals scream from their bedroom windows. I’ve smashed through a wall, puked in my mouth and nearly shat myself.

Oh Hackney, I love you.

Believe it or not, this isn’t my Saturday night stumble home from Oslo, but a far more friendly and enjoyable jaunt down Mare Street – the Run Hackney Half Marathon.

The tears were of joy between friends and family embracing each other as they pushed their bodies and did ‘Whatever is takes’ to raise money for charities close to their hearts.

Broken bodies were picked up, hugged and sent on their way to the neverending hollers of encouragement from balconies, windows and front gardens.

The wall I smashed is that old runners’ proverbial one.

The puking and pooing part, well, that’s runners’ nerves for you (it was actually before the race had even started).

And the heat.

Oh my Mo Farah, the heat.

I think I now know what it feels like to be a Rustlers Burger rotating my way to a delicious ping. Come to think of it, a more apt ending to the race would have been a microwave pinging every time a runner crossed the finish line. But despite this, I loved every single sweaty second. Because this race was different.

I bloody love running. I run about six times a week, training hard for the next race, chasing the buzz I get by pushing myself to the limit. But recently this buzz was getting a little bit, well, tiring. It was becoming all too easy to skip to the pub rather than pound the pavements home. Was I, dare I say, falling out of love with running?

This time I tried something new. I took a step back from the blurry tunnel that is ‘the zone’. This time ‘time’ was no issue. I wasn’t going to burst my lungs striving for a PB. I was going to run for fun – sticking with friends, chatting with them, encouraging them and spraying water over spectators (they looked just as exhausted as us runners).

Interacting with my surroundings opened up a whole new perspective on running. I noticed things ‘the zone’ usually blocks out, such as the comradeship between runners and spectators, even the locals moaning about road closures still had time to shout ‘Go on son!’ You can get so swept up in striving for your best you sometimes lose all sense of direction (I mean mentally – the route was marked out pretty clearly). There was a guy in my running crew (Run Dem Crew – look them up) who ran 16 miles (the half marathon is 13.1 miles) because he kept going back to help people finish. It’s these kinds of stories that have helped me see there’s more to running than running.

Don’t get it twisted. My next race is going to be a lung-bursting PB attack, but it’s this recent change of approach that’s re-energised my desire – and something I plan on doing more regularly. Thank you Hackney Half.

I suppose what I’m trying to say with this marathon of a parable is that if you get fed-up or stuck, take a step back – especially if it’s something you love doing, because you don’t want to lose the love forever.

Writers’ block giving you panic attacks? Read something, watch a film, go out and socialise with people (I find the stranger they are the better). The blank page giving you an art directors’ meltdown? Go to an exhibition, or even play Playstation – you never know, stealing a few cars, shooting some gangsters or getting Ipswich promoted to the Premier League might unlock something magical in your mind. Just take a step back, refuel the passion and attack the problem later with a clearer mind and more conviction.

And, well, if all this fails you can always go for a run.

Daniel Simpson
(Copywriter and one very well cooked runner)

Four decades of presenting

It’s a muggy night down in the depths of the DigitasLBi building. The beer tokens have already been emptied and the Creative Social’s ’Advertising through the decades’ is about to kick off like a Disco Inferno.

Which it dutifully does with a short film of seventies snippets to set the scene. Gerry Moira, Director of Creativity and Creative Chairman of Havas Worldwide fires his first salvo across the predominantly young heads in the audience and we’re off sprinting through the golden decade of advertising, his sentiment not mine. With a reel of great work in his defence.

The interesting part of the evening isn’t so much the work that’s being shown, nor the stories being sold, but the way each decade is tackled and presented. Gerry (to his friends) delivers with the assurance and humour of a man who has been here, there and everywhere before. Like a hamlet cigar it’s a lovely start to the evening.

Next up is Rosie Arnold, Deputy Executive Creative Director from BBH. I’ve been looking forward to her presentation. Not least because I hope she takes me back to the time when I had hair, and ideas smelt of petrol. If you don’t know what I mean Google ’Cow Gum’ for your starter for 10.

I’m enjoying the enthusiasm which occasionally bounces her off kilter against her notes. And I’m loving the way she’s peppering memory lane with houses built out of today’s technology. So anyone born after Brookside can  see the benefits and negatives of today’s silicon age.

So far so good, I wasn’t sure what to expect but neither had surprised or disappointed me.

Next up is a change of pace to keepme in rapture for  the next 20 minutes. Paul KitKatt, Creative Partner of KitKatt Nohr launches into an offensive against advertising with the 90s and the growing value of Direct Mail. He’s armed with just his words and the shape of a Heinz Soup label drawn badly on a flip chart. And we’re navigating through an age where clients were shown another way to reach the hearts and minds of customers whilst collecting data and results at the same time.

Seems so old hat now, but back then it really was the frontier on a changing landscape. We’re also reminded that this was the decade of emerging technology.

At this stage my two beer tokens have conceded their battle with gravity and I’m forced to climb over various body parts in my row to get to the little boys room.

As I zip up and zip back, I realise I have missed the first few raucous seconds of Abi Ellis, Group Creative Director at LBi.

She’s climbed out of the nineties and hit the dinosaur riddled age of the noughties. It’s like a high octane ’fuck-fest’ where we’re treated to a woman who presents like she’s judging a Tourette’s spelling bee  in a borstal, and I’m loving it. No prisoners, no fakery, the nerves occasionally itch their way to the surface but she just ploughs on in her own interminable way with all the bravado of a scaffolder.

Her message is as sharp as she’s blunt. ’Don’t mimic the dinosaurs (metaphorical big ideas) because you’ll end up with fossilised shit before you’ve even started’. Lovely stuff.

The next guy is going to have to work his little socks off to topple the first decade of this century.

So up stands Matt Weatherall, a planner from Dare. A young fella with a head big enough to hold all the wisdom of ET in it. He doesn’t even try to compete and he doesn’t need to. Instead of slugging it out with his Ps and Qs he takes the higher ground and opens up the evening embers with a question ‘Is advertising doing more damage than good to our culture, and more importantly our children?’ Not better than the last presentation, not worse. Incomparable.

Sadly the answer to his question, according to Matt is yes. Even sadder, the answer to his next question ‘What are we going to do about it?’ is no idea, but someone in the crowd may have the answer one day.

I would love for him to throw out a possible solution no matter how bonkers or leading. Some of the greatest debates have been started with the best answers.

It was still a good speech none the less. And I look forward to seeing and hearing more from Matt in the future.

So what did I learn from the talks offered up on the Creative Social sacrificial table?

Agencies are a bit like new mothers who struggle and cry through the first months thinking they are all alone and no other mum seems to be struggling like they are. Until they speak to each other and realise the worries, problems and sleepless nights are a shared grievance.

Each presentation reflected their decade beautifully.

As the creative offering of their time got a little wider, and memory lane a little shorter, the presentations also became wider, as do the problems and worries that get in the way of great creative work. From bad briefs, interfering clients, rose tinted dreams of better times long gone and attacks of social conscience.

We are not alone.

Andy Bolter
Creative Director

The lost art of letter writing?

If the level of epistolary enthusiasm in the air at the South Bank this week was anything to go by, then the humble letter has never been more highly regarded.

Letters Live was a celebration the enduring power of literary correspondence, with a diverse selection of actors, musicians and writers reading out a range of emotionally charged missives to a packed house.

From Caitlin Moran reading the message intended for her daughter in the event of her death to Toast of London’s Matt Berry reciting Elvis Presley’s presidential request for “Federal Agent at Large” status, it made for an extraordinary evening.

Oscillating between humour and heartache, often within the same letter, it served as a potent reminder of the power of prose and its ability to enchant an audience even today.

More immediatly surprising, however, was the wave of famous faces that filed onto the stage, totally unannounced, to share their favourite correspondences.

From Stephen Fry wielding Oscar Wilde’s wit with his usual aplomb to an eleventh-hour appearance from Russell Brand, who delivered Mick Jagger’s wise words to Andy Warhol with his hallmark theatricality.

Most impressive to me, however, was the consideration each author had clearly given every word to ensure its maximum impact before ever reaching for their letter set – something still clearly worth celebrating in this quick-fire, hash-tag hungry age.

Matthew Evans