Posts Tagged ‘Planners’

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Madrid with work – the first trip since the whole, sad divorce thing. I had been worried that it was going to be awful – and in some ways, it was (the reality of being away from everyone, and the fact that that will be a reality for most of my week nights soon etc.), but in others, it was good to be immersed in work and have not one moment unaccounted for. To my delight, I was also there with Old Friend at Work (who has been by my side and an incredible friend through all this), Alison Steadman Playing a P.A. P.A, Eternally Optimistic Spanish Planner, Planner With the Aura of Jesus, The Smallest Media Planner in The World, Stereotype of a Northern Planner, and others.

We worked pretty hard by day, but at night we drank like absolute maniacs – until 3 in the morning (or in the case of Old Friend at Work; Planner With the Aura of Jesus, The Smallest Media Planner in the World, and Alison Steadman Playing a P.A P.A, through the night in a couple of cases) on most nights, even though we were to start a nine hour day again, at 9 (in a defiantly non-Madrid manner). On one of these occasions, Old Friend at Work got her purse nicked from the hotel bar (only to be met with the response from Reception of “At least they didn’t get your passport, that’s what they’re REALLY after”, which isn’t exactly a masterclass in Customer Service). On another, Planner With the Aura of Jesus and Alison Steadman Playing a P.A. P.A. sat up all night drinking in the hotel bar, then moved to her room (entirely innocently, my new situation prompts me to add, unnecessarily…) and finished off the mini-bar.

But it was on the third night that things got, as the phrase goes, “messy”. I didn’t particularly embarrass myself, I can say with some relief: yes, there was the usual over-enthusiasm about stuff (most notably, Shakespeare – but also some vague shit about strategic approaches, which had me suddenly behaving like St. Paul on the road to Damascus, and celebrating by bellowing “Yes! Yes! God! That’s BRILLIANT! YOU’RE BRILLIANT!” at some poor fucker), and probably a little bit too much swaying around and smiling broadly – but that was as bad as it got. So, when it came time for me to leave (a respectable 3.30am), I said a few goodbyes and made my move, only to be “confronted” (if I can use this word of a man of his Micky Rooney like stature) by The Smallest Media Planner in the World.

“Stay and have another drink!”

“I can’t, SMPITW, I’m already pissed and I’m knackered, so I’m going.”

“Stay. Have a drink with me.”

“I can’t. Really. Tomorrow.”

“Have a drink with me. As a friend of mine.”

“No, I’m going.”

What he said next rather diminished his most recent pronouncement of our friendship, for it was:

“Then fuck off, you cunt. Fuck off.”

Well, off I fucked and went back to my simply enormous room (enormous not because of some ludicrous status, but because I had been allocated a room for someone in a wheelchair – which I’m not – and as a result, the dimensions of the room had to allow for the turning circle of same), had a shower, put on my iPod speakers and fell asleep listening to “The Gathering”, as read by Miss Shaw.

It turns out the The Smallest Media Planner In The World hadn’t turned against me, but against humanity: for he had told a round score of people to fuck off later on that night, and had christened about half of them “cunts” as well. Turns out that when he gets sauced (and again, his stature is such that one might have thought a couple of bottles of beers could be dangerous), he becomes that famed, but rare animal The Bad Drunk. He had stuck with the gang long enough to move on with them at 4am to a Piano Bar, where he doled out the bulk of his insults, before having a quick nap and getting back to the hotel at 6am. I wouldn’t be such a turd as to remind him of his bad behaviour the next morning – I dread to imagine what people put up with from me when I have got myself absolutely twisted – so I met him cordially at the beginning of the final day’s session and asked him what time he had got in. He had (or feigned to have) no memory of having parted brass rags the previous night, and his answer to me was as one amazed:

“I don’t know. Late. But I feel fucking awful this morning. I woke up surrounded by Pringles, and with the towels all soaking wet in the shower.”

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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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Saying “Yes”

Two new Planners have joined my team – and the difference that their arrival has made has been staggering.

It isn’t so much the workload that I notice (I have got used to, and then got good at, getting through an awful lot in very little time), it is the difference that it makes to be surrounded by people who say “Yes”.

I don’t mean this in the sense of craven agreement with everything that I say, but rather, when I ask them if they’re going to be able to do something by a certain deadline, if everything is clear to them, if they think they’re going to be able to squeeze in an effectiveness paper, they don’t say “I’ll do my best” or “I’ll give it a shot” – they say “Yes”.

The cynics among you (and those of you who know the story of the sons sent to work in the field) will already be thinking “Saying “Yes” is one thing, delivering on your promise is another.” – and you’d be right. But my goodness: it doesn’t half start the day off right when you’re in a world of positivity, rather than a world of painful effort.

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My desk is awash with the CVs of would-be Planners and would-be-far-better-paid Planners.

I find it quite easy to be brutal about the senior people who are looking to manage their careers, and make the next “smart move” – and so they’ve had a fifty per cent success rate with me. The great ones are great, the others make me want to self-harm just to end the boredom.

However, I am as soft as a marshmallow, being softened in a frying pan, in full sunlight when it comes to the people who just want a chance to “be a Planner” – especially when they have done something like left their home country to come to London because it’s “the home of Planning”. If find myself thinking “Well, if I did a lot more of the work myself and managed to get this person a training budget, in three years’ time, she could be great…” Fortunately, I interviewed her alongside Old Friend in Advertising (who has recently been promoted to a Global role, so is doing EXACTLY the same job as me) and she was much better at asking the brutal questions (not in the interview, but of me, afterwards) such as “How much help is she going to be to you?”, “How much time can you invest in her?”

Thankfully, I knew I had more people to see, because I was within a hair’s breadth of clasping her in my arms and saying “Congratulations! You’re hired!” and ordering Champagne – so it was only with the ultimate concentration that I managed to think into the future and ask myself: “Will either of us profit from my employing her?”… and thinking to myself “I’m just not sure”.

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Tuesday, 29th May 2007

I have a feeling that I am turning into the sort of person that I hate: a moaning twat.

I think it’s the basis for much philosophy and a huge number of film franchises that the root of all that you hate is buried within you, but it’s a bit disconcerting to see it coming so disconcertingly true.

I returned to work today, expecting to see greatness on a project that I briefed before going to New York (and, I hasten to add, that the Creatives deemed “brilliant” and “really exciting”) – and instead I got (pretty much) EXACTLY what I had said, as stimulus, presented back to me in script form.

So I went and saw Fearless Leader and had a big old whinge about it. Fearless Leader is, I should say, great at her job and a really nice woman (slightly embarrassing when she snaps her fingers and does armchair dancing whenever a track is played in a meeting) – so the unappealing sight of a 36 year-old virtually pouting as he complained about how disappointed he was, must have struck her as faintly revolting. Not least because, over her desk, there is a framed poster with the motto: “Keep Calm and Carry On”. My approach was more like: “Throw a Strop and Act Like A Girl”

Anyway, Exhausted Creative Director arrives tomorrow to review the work with us, so I can treat him to a finely honed version of “Not angry, but disappointed” routine that normally hits home. Especially when preceded with notably glassy-eyed vacancy and monosyllabic responses to all well-intentioned bonhomie.

Oh yes: I can be a little BEAST.

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What a striking difference there was between two men whom I interviewed for senior roles this week!

The first made my heart sink: from his Penfold-like appearance and demeanour, to his ghastly verbal skills (prefacing every swearword with either: “If you’ll pardon my French…” or “The technical term is…”). I was tempted to terminate the interview with a hearty “Fuck off, you useless cunt – if you’ll pardon my French.” but I couldn’t, as his interviewee technique had clearly incorporated a command such as: “Back your interviewer into a corner: ask him how it’s gone!” and before I knew where I was, I was simpering along about how I’d like him to meet some more people and all that bullshit. Of course, I won’t inflict him on anyone else, and I took the coward’s way out of giving my feedback to the headhunter…

By way of happy contrast, the second person I saw, the very next day was his mirror image: personable, hugely creative (the first interviewee, when I asked him what he was looking for in his next move, led with “The right level of remuneration”; this one replied “The best creative opportunity”), a CV littered with senior appointments on global business, and someone whom I’d actually like to see everyday, rather than someone who’d make me feel like hiding in the loo if I saw him coming…

Many more to see in the coming week, so I can’t be sure that we won’t see him bettered, but it was a very cheering contrast to Mr. Deadly…

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