A month or so ago, W+Kers and visitors to 16 Hanbury St will have noticed a new addition to our reception, in the humble form of a pin board with some bits of card stuck on it. This is the home of Handy Little Thing - an informal way for W+Kers to share their knowledge with others on a topic they're passionate about.
We're keeping it lo-fi with an old school noticeboard system of pens, pins and cards. W+Kers, our friends and our clients who have a skill or interest to share fill out a card for the board, and those who are interested can sign up to learn about it. A talk is then arranged, allowing everyone to share their skills, learn some new ones, have some laughs, and maybe even make new friends in the process.
Handy Little Thing is off to a roaring start, with topics such as UX, flower arranging, promoting personal projects, and Catalan culture on offer so far. Nice.
The inaugural Handy Little Thing talk kicked off yesterday, with Planning Director Theo, who enlighten us on 'how to be a powerpoint ninja'.
It takes someone with great wit, humour and congeniality to make the MS Office Suite sound even remotely interesting, but as his slides were met with laughter, clapping and sharp intakes of excited breath (we're not even kidding), it became very clear that we were in excellent hands. With his focus on personal presenting style, simplicity, and a generous number of easy technical tricks, we couldn't have asked for a better talk to kick off the project.
Watch this space for regular updates on the handy little things we'll be sharing!
Monday saw a day of celebration for our Forever Curious project. Following an inspiring series of 'my creative spark' card creation sessions and spark card workshops with pupils from Millfelds and Newport primary schools, we held an exhibition of the work we've been creating together over the past couple of months, at The Rag Factory, just off Brick Lane.
The photos that follow were taken by our talented WracK Edit Assistant, Lainey Richardson.
Our buddies and their teachers joined us in the afternoon to check out their very own private view of the exhibition. We all sat down to share our stories of creativity after exploring installations of spark cards, robots and super hero drawings created by the kids and W+Kers, as well as photographs documenting the workshop day. The schools were also treated to a special screening of a short film we created to capture a day bursting with creativity, naturally accompanied by some popcorn to really set the cinema scene.
At the end of each session, the participating children were given an official certificate celebrating their "sparkiness" and a scrapbook to help keep those creative sparks burning brightly.
We loved having the chance to spend some time with our buddies again and see the exhibition through their eyes.
The feedback we received from pupils and adults alike was a testament to the incredible thought, energy, care and passion that the Forever Curious team have dedicated in to the project over the past month.
We'll leave you with the delightful manifesto that accompanied the exhibition, crafted by Creative Directors Dan and Ray.
Over the past couple of weeks, the average age of the W+K office has dropped sharply, due to a series of educational visits from various corners of the world.
We hosted students from the Universities Oklahoma and Delaware and West Herts College, Watford, who stopped by to check out our offices and get a feel for the ins and outs of adland, thanks to presentations by creative Jason & Joris and Mark & Paddy.
To top it all off, our ECDs Tony and Kim gave a talk for the D&AD New Blood festival, allowing soon-to-be ad grads to lap up a little of what life is like here at W+K.
Students from West Herts with our Vikki and our Guy.
We were delighted to receive a rave review from the University of Watford, who wrote on their ad course blog:
“There were lots of treats at the agency on Friday. Guy Featherstone, self-confessed skate boarding sneaker head and soon to be Head of Design at W&K Portland, treated us all to a talk about his design philosophies. Amazing stuff it was too. Vikki Kottler treated us all to breakfast. […] As always, the W+K experience was truly different, immensely inspiring and hugely enjoyable."
Last night, on the eve of the hottest day so far this year, agency and production house friends of Cut + Run escaped the heat amidst cold fans and delicious pineapple cocktails for the July edition of The Quarterly, an event that brings together and celebrates the talent in the creative industries.
On the agenda this month was our very own work for - and relationship with - Lurpak, which has been recognised in high places recently. In a talk and Q&A hosted by Toby Abbott, MD of Cut + Run, and Jason Stone of David Reviews, Client Christian, AD Katja, and CD Sam, supported by Planning Director Theo, tapped into a Star Trek analogy to explain the creative process behind their latest campaign for Lurpak Cook's Range, Adventure Awaits. From JFK speeches to Ratatouille quotes, their presentation provided a fascinating insight into the client-agency relationship, creative risk-taking, working with Director Dougal Wilson, and what makes the Lurpak brand it is today.
A few of our favourite learnings from the team include:
_Put aside received knowledge to seek out alien wisdom.
_Logic can only get you so far - instict makes the difference between what's right and what's brilliant.
_Artifice is the enemy, authenticity pulls the viewer in.
_If it doesn't scare us, we're doing it wrong.
We'd like to warmly thank Toby and the Cut + Run team for their generous hosting, Jason for his perceptive Q&A session, and our wonderful Lurpak client, Christian for coming down to London for the talk.
Oh, and the caterers, for those delicious little glasses of Lurpak ice cream on offer around during the evening.
For more photos of the event, check out Cut + Run's Facebook page.
These days, we spend more and more time negotiating terms of business with the Procurement departments of clients and potential clients. These negotiations are more protracted and more contentious than used to be the case in my experience.
Increasingly, Marketing is disconnected from conversations about terms of business and Procurement seeks to impose standard terms across all suppliers and to bring any agency that seeks different terms into line. A prevalent approach is simply to say that these terms are ‘company policy’ and not open to negotiation. This can lead to discussions lasting for months, often long after work has started, or even finished.
This is no doubt part of the reason why the IPA and ISBA have been meeting recently (at The Performance Adaptathon) to discuss whether and how to remunerate agencies for value creation. As observed by Claire Beale in Campaign, “Let’s hope that, while they’re at it, they make a fresh stab at positioning marketing as an investment rather than a cost.”
This the heart of the issue – not just positioning marketing as an investment, but agreeing remuneration terms that are based on that principle.
Authored by Gerry Preece, ex-head of marketing procurement for the world’s largest advertiser and by Russel Wohlwerth, an ex-agency executive who is now one of the industry’s most respected consultants, this book hits the “marketing procurement dilemma” head on. Preece and Wohlwerth deliver a punchy, concise, clear-minded assessment of the problem and offer straightforward solutions. If you’re an agency leader, a CMO, or a brand marketer, this book will empower you to influence how procurement approaches the space, thus enabling you to deliver better marketing work. And if you’re a Chief Procurement Officer or a marketing procurement professional, you’ll discover a powerful road map that will maximize your bottom line performance and results.
One of the Amazon reviewers commented, “If there was a "beach read" for Procurement within the marketing space, this would be it.” So I took the book on holiday with me and can now offer you this summary to help you decide whether it’s your sort of a beach read or not.
(Good news: it's a much slimmer volume than Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and much easier to read than Edmund Gosse’s Father And Son, my other summer 2014 ‘beach read’ selections.)
The background to the current situation, say the authors, is Procurement’s success in the 1980s and 1990s in buying marketing materials like printed materials. They were able to deliver measurable savings. So, over time, Procurement began to get involved with other marketing spend areas: telemarketing services, mailing lists and, bit by bit, Procurement started to deal with agencies, and areas in which not all value arrived in the form of price. This is where conflict started to develop. Marketers accused Procurement of failing to understand marketing and undermining creative relationships, Procurement accused marketers of feeling threatened by their superior buying skills, and accused agencies of fearing accountability. Agencies accused Procurement of heavy-handed fee-slashing that made it hard to do the job properly and profitably.
Well, yes, that does all sound pretty familiar.
Cutting agency costs may reduce the value of the services being purchased
But, say the authors, these complaints about procurement not understanding marketing and agencies being overpaid and complacent are not getting to the root of the problem, which is this:
“Marketing dollars are limited. They are finite. There is a broad, universal need for every CMO to become increasingly efficient with the limited resources that are available, and that translates into an undending pressure to do more with less. The real problem is that we have to increase marketing ROI.”
This, I think, is the “marketing procurement dilemma” referred to in the book’s title: the problem caused when Procurement wants to buy more marketing services for less, but – because they’re focusing on price, not ROI - they end up getting less for less. Because, if agencies are forced to cut costs, they can do so, but the ways in which they do so will affect the value delivered – putting cheaper, less experienced people on the client’s business, spending less time thinking about strategy, cutting creative development time, presenting fewer options, attending fewer research groups, reducing the number of face-to-face meetings, etc. In this ‘less for less’ scenario everyone loses.
Why marketing is different
The reason for the dilemma is that marketing is different from the other goods and services purchased by Procurement. The authors cite several reasons for this. They include:
- Marketing is an investment not a cost. (Nothing is easier than cutting marketing costs – if you don't believe it’s adding value, just stop spending.) Nobody makes an investment decision based solely on price. (Who buys a share in Microsoft because it’s cheaper than a share in Coca-Cola?) Marketing Procurement should not be about minimising costs, it should be about maximising the value of the investment.
- Specifications are fluid and quality is variable. £1m worth of campaign A is not worth the same as £1m worth of campaign B.
- Because of this variation in quality, the consequences of choosing one apparently comparable proposal over another may be substantial. Good marketing can drive significant uplifts in profits. Bad marketing can lead to a decline in profits.
- Agency differentiation lies in people and processes, not equipment and technology. Obviously, it’s hard to benchmark the talent of one agency against that of another.
- Measuring Procurement performance in marketing is imperfect and complicated. If you’re buying materials, you can quantify volume, quality and cost paid and benchmark this against what was spent before. But in marketing, specifications are hard to quantify and no two proposals are of the same value, so cost saving alone is not a relevant metric.
How do you get more for less?
Okay, marketing is different. Now, how do you get more for less?
Preece and Russel Wohlwerth suggest that this can be done by following four principles. On your Procurement team you need:
1. people with the right mindset (maximisation of value, not cost-cutting)
2. measured by the right metrics (value-add, not savings. Marketing and Marketing Procurement should be tasked with the same metrics.)
3. applying the right skills (strategic sourcing and good interpersonal, trust-building skills)
4. in the right assignments (long-term, ongoing assignments that enable people to learn the area and build trust)
Some companies do employ procurement people who fit this description, and we’ve been lucky to work with them. But not all do.
Putting this into practice
The book suggests four steps when sitting down with Chief Procurement Officer / financial decision-maker:
1. Confirm mutual understanding that marketing is a good investment
2. Explain in detail why marketing is different (as seen above)
3. Describe the implications (right mindset, metrics, skills and assignments)
4. get agreement and get going
Sounds simple. And the book is definitely a concise, clear and well-argued case for the basics of how to solve ‘the dilemma’, which makes it a useful beach read, but a less entertaining one than ‘The Goldfinch’.
The lesson for agencies is that we need more than ever to be focused on accountability for what we do, so that we can prove the value we are providing. We must do this in close partnership with client marketers, who share our interest in accountability. Without this, the debate will only ever be about cost.
A few months ago, shortly after a certain Guardian article was published, our planner Oscar just couldn't resist the call of the music industry any longer and bid adieu to W+K to focus on his music.
And he's only gone and done it, too.
These days, Oscar can be found producing music under the name Powell, DJing at various ear-bleedingly loud club nights, and he also runs the Diagonal record label with his mate, Jaime Williams.
Music site Juno recently posted an in-depth interview with Oscar, Guy and Jamie about Diagonal, where they talk about the, er, subtle art of collaboration, publishing on vinyl versus digital downloads and what the future holds for the label. Oh and a little bit about the enduring appeal of ironic merch.
Apart from making the odd branded glowstick here and there, Diagonal releases music by a diverse list of artists including Death Comet Crew, Russell Haswell and Bronze Teeth (music geeks, geek out - it's a project from Factory Floor's Dominic Butler).
Diagonal's beautifully minimalistic record sleeves are designed by our very own head of craft (and all round design legend) Guy Featherstone, and they really are something to behold. Here are a few of them:
[Powell 'Club Music']
[Bronze Teeth 'Unilaterals']
[Russell Haswell — 37 minute workout]
Keep an eye on Diagonal's Twitter for news of upcoming releases and gigs. And if you want more Powell in your life, you can tune in to NTS radio to hear Oscar's show Melon Magic on Friday nights from 11pm-1am.
A little while ago, Wired invited us to contribute to a special section they were running featuring thoughts and letters from ten years into the future, 2024, alongside contributions from writers like Cory Doctorow and Margaret Atwood.
Wired’s introduction to the feature foreshadows the death of print: “It’s hard to believe, but back in 2014 people still read paper magazines. As an exercise in nostalgia, we asked some of our favourite writers, artists and photographers to convey 2024 news in ‘the format we used to love'."Our Creative Directors, Dan Norris and Ray Shaughnessy and Head of Emerging Platforms, Luke Tipping came up with the idea for an ad that promotes real-life ad blocking retinal technology, which replaces OOH advertising with images a user wants to see.We highly recommend getting your hands on the July copy of Wired for this fascinating speculation on the future of advertising and tech.
Bonjour and happy Bastille Day, mes amis! As well as being the day France celebrates the French Revolution, today is also the day we launch something with a bit of French flavour.
Peek your eyes at our new Chambord campaign:
The 30" TV ad, directed by Nick Gordon, breaks tonight during Big Brother, kicking off the playful, colourful and surreal new #BecauseNoReason campaign.
With our first campaign for the brand, we wanted to tip our chapeau to Chambord’s ‘Frenchness’, but we also wanted to make it modern, exciting and unpredictable.
Chambord's #BecauseNoReason attitude encourages people to do what they want and follow their own rules in the age of overwhelming pressure to look the right way, do the right thing, take the right pictures and say the right things.
We wanted to give Chambord a personality that would thrive in social and beyond, and so today we're also rolling out a social campaign that will promote the #BecauseNoReason attitude at key moments throughout the summer, when people are most vulnerable to bowing to social pressures – festivals, fashion shows, that crucial Saturday night go-out-or-stay-in moment. Fans will be given bright and witty doses of encouragement across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, all in Chambord’s ‘absurd logic’ tone of voice.
Keep your eyes peeled for much, much more over the coming weeks.
And whether you're celebrating Bastille Day or not, here's some Monday #BecauseNoReason inspiration, by way of a Chambord Royale recipe:
By now, the emotional rollercoaster that is the World Cup feels like it's been going on forever, but boy are we going to miss all the fun after this weekend's final.
Back at the start of the tournament, in the heady days before goalpocalypse (yes, that semi final shocker of a score), we unveiled a thematic window installation titled World Cup Wishes. It features 3000 traditional Brazilian 'Senhor de Bonfim de Bahia' wish ribbons with a sporty twist arrnaged to spell 'football' in Portuguese, with each ribbon carrying the wish of a football fan or a reaction to the latest drama on the pitch.
The window – much like the tournament – is still going strong, with crowds of curious passers by and football fanatics stopping by throughout to grab their own wishes.
We made a video that captures the whole thing. Enjoy!
Don't forget, you can still tweet your wish with the hashtag #WorldCupWishes, and you may find your own message on display in time for the final.
On Friday, two groups of W+Kers reunited with schoolchildren from Milllfields Community School and Newport Primary School at Chats Palace, Homerton, for the next installment of our Forever Curious workshops.
Over the course of two carefully crafted sessions inspired by some of our Spark Cards, kids teamed up with W+Kers to explore a series of workshops designed to encourage them to think creatively and let their imaginations run free. We created superhero versions of ourselves, played with parachutes, arranged flowers and created play dough sculptures.
It’s safe to say we W+Kers were humbled by the talent, insights and enthusiasm of our young buddies, who schooled us in rainbow looming, 80s hip hop and YouTube bloggers, amongst many other things.
The sheer amount of creativity, fun and joy we all experienced is hard to capture in words, so here are a few pictures from the day.
We’re really excited to see the results of our workshops come to life in an exhibition later this month. Watch this space!