Posts Tagged ‘American Diva Planning Friend’

There’s a great Mitchell and Webb sketch, wherein they play an author and an editor, with the latter giving endless recommendations to the former, and then withdrawing them with the coda of “…not that, obviously. YOU’RE the creative one.” After minutes of this, the author is left aware that he is being asked to do something really quite specific, and yet with the caveat that if he does any of that, he will be viewed as a mere cypher, and faintly redundant – so he’s caught in a paralysis of interpretation: and if ever there was a face that can capture confusion and bafflement at the stupidity he is witness to, that face belongs to David Mitchell.

This is such a familiar scenario to me (with Clients dancing around Creatives, tugging their forelock and pre-empting everything with the salve of “Obviously this is going to be shit, because YOU’RE the creative one and I’m just a human shaped winnet on the arse hair of the world, but what about…” before asking for a massive pack shot and a jingle) that I positively wriggle with delight every time I watch it.

However, we were recently in one of these situations as Planners, when Matey Planner drew us all together to counter the horror that is open plan and how we might respond to it. A room full of Planners is always a strange place to be (and now is not the time to rehearse all the questions about what the collective noun might be…) because they’re more prone to listening than talking, So, the meeting began with the usual exchange of glances and parade of diffident smiles: Planners don’t like to push themselves forward, either: so getting them started can be a bit of nightmare, but ONCE they are talking, it’s almost impossible to shut them up. They get taken with the inarguable TRUTH of a point, and then they get  OBSESSED with minutiae. Our ground-breaking, out of the box, blue sky thinking suggestion? Build offices.  However, we had to first go through the strange disavowal of expertise and ability dance that Mitchell and Webb captured, but Matey Planner has taken to a different level, of prefacing everything with “I Don’t Know…”.

Thus it was that he made the following suggestions:-

“I don’t know: maybe we take all the furniture down to a car spraying workshop and spray it all bright yellows and purples and pinks! I don’t know…”

“I don’t know: maybe we give everyone a thousand pounds to customise their own space: so American Diva Planner’s could have lots of tie-dye and a… and a.. and a HAT on it. And yours could all be black and white and – Maybe someone’s is like a map. Or we have a hundred images of Beijing and Paris and Shanghai and New York, laminated onto the surface. I don’t know…”

“I don’t know: maybe we get four edgy young artists in and say “Go wild with the space”. I don’t know…”

What we all DID know was that what we wanted was the following: walls, storage (of which there is none, currently), privacy (ditto) and quiet (also ditto). I suppose that would be what we all had before the walls came a-tumblin’ down. And I am pretty confident that that is what we will have in six months’ time, but… I Don’t Know.

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I’ve just returned from the Malaysian island of Langkawi: a ludicrously idyllic spot where we held a conference – or what American Diva Planning Friend refers to as “Fearless Leader’s Prom” (and it is true that Fearless Leader approaches it with all the excitement and soon-to-be-disappointed expectations of a young girl trembling on the doorstep before Mitch comes to collect her, dance with her, and have a damned good go at fingering her).

Joyously, neither Travesty Of All Things Gay, Smiling Assassin Planner, nor Planner With Austrian Hair were in attendance, so I had a great time with The Smallest Media Planner in the World, Enthusiastic Account Guy, American Diva Planning Friend, Old Friend at Work and many other thoroughly good sorts. The only down-side was that the first day of the conference fell on Ash Wednesday (a day of abstinence for me and my Church of Rome followers, as well as many other Christians) – so I approached this with commendable even-headedness and decided to get absolutely twisted on Shrove Tuesday.

Reader, I managed it. I got absolutely cunted between the hours of 7pm and 3am, crowning the evening with a 3am swim in the (apparently) jellyfish-besieged bay with French Account Guy Who Wants To Be Spanish, Planner As Tall As I Am, and The Smallest Media Planner in the World. I then went back to my villa and fell asleep, waking ten minutes before the start of the conference programme, which I attended, looking like Mickey Rourke in “Barfly”.

Rather worse, though was the fate of Old Friend At Work, who had come on a different flight and arrived much later – so she had spent about 32 hours travelling. She believes it was this exhausted state that contributed to her sleepwalking that night: and it was her sleepwalking that contributed to her falling down a flight of pebble-dashed stairs, waking up outside her room, covered in blood, naked and terribly bruised. Needless to say, it was the strangeness of the location and her vulnerability in it that scared her most – but then the pain and the extent of the damage she’s done to her face and body took over.

She’s a remarkable woman and displayed huge courage and bravery in how she coped with the pain and the fear, attending every interminable minute of the conference and joking about her plight and appearance:. She saw a doctor and will be fine, but the startling combination of bruises and grazes and cuts on her face were painful – and painfully noticeable: sometimes the worst thing about an event like that is the endless repetition of the explanations to well-meaning, but eventually exhausting on-lookers… She’s home now, with her husband – and it’s a mark of her humour (if not of her political correctness) to record that she intends to make him take her to the supermarket tomorrow, specifically so that she can flinch every time he makes a sudden movement towards her, or puts something in the basket…

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One of the things that alarms me most about marketing’s reaction to the current economic crisis (or recession, depending on where you’re living) is that it has become an all-consuming (and almost entirely misunderstood) context for all discussions  had, and all decisions made. “What are we going to do in the current economic climate?” has become one of those questions which has been set by marketers to their advertising agencies in the same sort of “let’s not REALLY engage  with this ” sort of way, that I am old enough to remember from the dot.com revolution (when the response seemed to be “Get a website where people can look at the ads.”).

And so it is that the question is asked, a disinterested presentation is given back, everyone pronounces that due diligence has been served – and things rumble on much as before: the issue not really dealt with, the brand in question not really helping its consumers (and thus buying their longer-term loyalty).

The best retailer recession strategy that I have seen comes from Sainsbury’s (and their partner, the enduringly good AMV.BBDO): TV idents that talk about using up left-over ingredients. It’s got a lightness of touch that doesn’t pull the brand down into a value, there is no mention made of “economic downturn”, “these difficult times”, or anything similar that might force their consumers into seeing themselves as “sufferers”. Instead it focuses on the virtue of using leftover food creatively: it’s recession-relevant in spades, but it also positions the brand as helpful, creative and – most importantly – on its customers’ side (after all: it’s not in Sainsbury’s DIRECT interest to make people use their leftovers properly – it would be “better” business sense to encourage them to chuck them out and start again – but this is about providing inspiration and service – not making a quick buck). If only everyone else could be so smart, so relevant, and frankly, so long-term in their thinking.

There is also, of course, another side to the situation that we in advertising are in as a result of the recession: redundancies. In recession, many clients cut their budgets – some stop advertising completely – and that means that people who supply that advertising lose their jobs.

Of course, I am not so myopic as to suggest that this is a recession that’s only effecting people in my industry – but it is a truth that we are seen (perhaps rightly) as less essential to the present (never mind the future – the future’s a luxury) success of a brand or a business, than many other employees and partners – and so the level of redundancies are high.

So, it was with more than a little surprise that I heard that American Diva Friend was trying to resist being given another account to work on (thereby making her, more or less, impossible to lose).

To keep your job in an advertising agency, you have to have a client (or clients) who will pay for 100% of your time (your time being charged out in percentages, at different rates, according to level of seniority). So, if (as in my case, for example) you have one client paying for 50% of your time, and another client paying the remaining 50%, you’re (by and large) OK.

However, American Diva Planning Friend is 70% paid for – and therein lies the problem. The agency thinks that the remaining 30% should be billed against a paying client (so she is “cost neutral”, rather than an overhead) – whereas she believes that the remaining 30% should afford her the extra time she needs to do added value pieces that delight her Client and raise her own professional profile.

However much I like American Diva Planning Friend (and I like her enormously), the fact is, this sort of fantasy is just that – a fantasy. Faced with a choice between having to pay (partially) for a member of staff themselves (and afford that person the chance to do extra work that really interests them and keeps them motivated; versus not having to pay for that person because they are fully recovered against a Client’s fee, it’s a “no-brainer” – for any advertising agency, not just our current employer. Especially in the “current economic climate”.

We are lucky: the consequences for many people of this recession is that they lose their jobs completely. We must be realistic that it is a perivilege to be negotiating the terms of a job – and not get fanciful about the fact that that is what it is: a job.

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Below is American Diva Friend’s “build” on the Golf Umbrellas’ issue – one that has preoccupied me much of late. I think she has done VERY WELL:-

Golf umbrellas spring forth from New York City.

Where no one actually plays golf.

(Too much walking around).

NYC (and all of America, for that matter) is the land of big fat selfish pigs who actually need a very large piece of rubberized plastic the size of a very large card table to cover their fat asses as they sprint between their Yukon Troubadour Caravan and the food shop or restaurant or hot dog vendor they’re trying to reach.

For more food.

These same people are also what I call LOUD TALKERS.

They take double strollers into tiny food shops on Saturdays around 11am to shout at their children inane things like “I LIKE how you are listening, Brittney” and “Good SITTING, Justin” to let The World know they are parenting and spending quality time with their children.

Beware the small food shop on a rainy Saturday when LOUD TALKERS meet golf umbrellas.

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Saturday, 30th June 2007

So, for a while now, myself and American Diva Friend have been awaiting transfer to our new offices. This has involved leaving our old offices and being transferred to “holding offices” – by the loos on the Creative Floor. If you are interested in the bowel evacuation schedules, habits and (grotesquely) accompanying reading habits of T-shirt clad creatives, there is an ideal vista. If you are interested in daylight, room to unpack your books, or basic contentment, it is not so great.

However, yesterday, I moved, down to the first floor to my new office. It’s not as nice as my first office (which was INSANELY lovely), but it’s fine and I was moved into it really efficiently by the House Ops boys.

And that was when the trouble started: being a book-hoarder (ie: incapable of original thought), my bookcase is enormous: 8 feet high, 6 feet wide – and its original resting place against the glass wall that separated me from the office next door was blocking the light from that office. So, I unloaded the books and moved it up, higher on the same wall, as requested.

So, there I was, sitting in my office, when in sidles World’s Greatest P.A. to tell me that someone else wasn’t happy with where the bookcase was. I snapped. It wasn’t a nice office to begin with. That was the only place that I could put the bookcase. If I was now being told where to put my furniture, then that would be the last straw. World’s Greatest P.A. stood there soaking up these theatrics with the expression of one who has seen it all before, and is resolutely unimpressed.

“We’ll get you some new bookshelves,” she said “Bigger ones.”

I love her.

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