Think Hard

Tess Alps talking sense.


Tess Alps is smart.

Here she talks about the government’s pathetic defence of slashing public service advertising because they claim there are more (cost) effective ways to change behaviour.

A 26% increase in drink driving deaths last year.  In the wake of an advertising embargo.  What did they expect? 

This sort of behaviour needs more than nudging.  It needs full spotlight disdain and only TV can do that.

Trying to get junkies off heroin.  That’s a different matter but this sort of behaviour needs social antipathy and TV’s the best way to galvanise that.

I agree 100% that broadcast TV advertising is not the only way to change behaviour.

But let’s get this straight. 

If you have the money there is STILL nothing that can replicate a great big dollop of TV advertising. 



Creative Edinburgh. Creative and Corporate Love. Tonight, Live in Leith.

Creative Edinburgh Logo

I bet you’d enjoy this.  But you can’t, because you were too slow off the mark.

It’s the latest Creative Edinburgh event tonight on The Leith Agency’s Mary De Guise Barge.

As our membership grows (it’s well over 500 now) our events are getting more and more popular.  That’s why this one’s sold out.

Ed Brooke (Ed of Leith) will share the speaker’s podium with award winning photographer Jannica Honey and Arts Learning Specialist and Drama Artist Fi Milligan Rennie.

Keep an eye on the Creative Edinburgh website for our future evens (we’ve planned hosting and curating of over 50 already this year)

Better still.  Become a member.  It costs very little.

Or pop along to Creative Circles at Brew-Lab.  It’s free.

Advertising’s new “way”?

I’m looking at a lot of interesting advertising at the moment because I’m teaching a module at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s BA Digital Film and TV degree course. It’s required me to look for examples of old classics and new.

I’ve been struck by what’s winning the gongs these days.

Nothing, but nothing is short.

And a lot of it frankly isn’t really that good. (I think, because they are too long and flabby)

So, if you’re gonna read on, and you should, make yourself comfortable.

The most awarded ad in the world last year was this one for Canal +.

It’s OK. And it’s only 60″  (that’s short)

This is good mind. The Guardian’s 3 Little Pigs (120″)

This is great.  It’s for Chipotle (and their sustainable/organic farming approach to sourcing – if you believe it) and takes a Coldplay song and covers it by Willie Nelson.  It’s 2 minutes 20″ long.

Metro Trains from Melbourne have made this 3 minute monster. And it’s garnered 38million YouTube hits so far.

But this is the one.  This is the absolute king of the pack.  It’s for Expedia and it brought a tear to my sorry old eyes.  It too is a beast weighing in at 3 minutes 20″

What though, happened to 30″ spots?


An amusing Christmas distraction

Our annual SEX party (Self Employed Xmas) found me assuming the role of auctioneer to raise money amongst the assembled 25 or so creative luminaries on behalf of our old, and sadly missed, pal Kenny Harris for his charity of choice; Diabetes Scotland.

Post lunch, rather lubricated my job began and after a few successful and enthusiastic lots had been sold we moved onto “the Sting” lot donated by David Reid for a “lost afternoon” lunch at The Canny Man’s.  Everything covered including taxi home.

All were pre-warned not to bid under any circumstances (for a wee laugh) apart from one person who tried but was restrained from bidding.  The action was caught on camera by a stealthy Mike Coulter.

The auction went on to raise £1,800 and David had the last laugh as his lot reached the highest total of £200 when it was later auctioned for real.


How to bow out with dignity.

My good friend Guy Robertson saw his business go bust after 25 years in the saddle last week.

This happens a lot in this industry but usually the vanquished faces a barrage of abuse and leaves with bad feelings all round for suppliers and staff.

Typically the business owner is full of vitriol and blame. Not Guy. This is how he said his final hurrah and I think it deserves a wider audience so that people can see the dignity, decency and wit with which Guy made his final bow (for now)

Good luck in the future mate. You deserve it….

Warm felicitations from the West End of Glesga,

A sense of self-respect, vanishing pride or perhaps plain bloody ego moved me to drop a note to a few of the many friends I have made in the Scottish Ad Industry and some of the more recent acquaintances I’ve made throughout the UK via the IPA. Sadly it’s to report the demise of GRP, the advertising and design business I started back in 1986 (remember those hedonistic and heady email-free days of full commission, meaty mark-ups and boozy lunches?)and which my Partners and I ran pretty successfully for more than 23 out of the next 25 years.

The past year or so has been a very stressful time, both emotionally and financially, so in some ways it’s a relief now I’ve brought it to a head by making the decision to wind down the Partnership. I guess the cracks started at the beginning of the global recession in December 2008 when we lost the Toyota Dealer Advertising business, an account that contributed more than 60% of our income at that point. We made the mistake, easily identified in hindsight if not at the time, of not cutting costs deeply or quickly enough and allowed our hearts to rule our heads when it came to reducing staff numbers. As everyone knows the general business climate continued to decline and despite GRP’s successful transition to Digital, which included winning accounts such as Highland Spring, we couldn’t achieve the profit levels needed to exceed our overheads, tied as we are to the building we bought back in 2005 and which is now too big and too expensive.

With the Bank seeking to down-value the building to the point at which our £450k equity had all but disappeared we took the decision to enter a Trust Deed before we reached the point at which a third party may have sought to sequestrate us.

As a Partnership my 2 Partners and I have unlimited liability (probably our other significant error!) so it has been important to manage the wind-up in a professional, honest and transparent manner and to minimise the effect on staff, suppliers and clients.

This process is happening as I write and I remain hopeful that the majority of the debt can be repaid without recourse to what’s left of my personal assets!! The building will have to be sold and given the commercial property market right now I’m not betting on a surplus after RBS get their claws into it! Meantime I have formed a new company in the name of Guy Robertson Advertising Ltd and happily I’m starting with the support of many of my clients at GRP. So thanks for reading my rambles and apologies if it comes across as somewhat self-indulgent, I guess that’s because it is!

This is why Mother is one of the greatest ad agencies in the world.

Must watch.  Genius.

John Hegarty – a proper legend

In my business development role at STV I have had the pleasure this year of putting on events with Trevor Beattie of BMB, Mark Waites of Mother and now Sir John Hegarty, founder and creative director of BBH and the nearest you can come to a living legend in our industry.

He was spellbinding and bewitching.

So, so relevant.  And a perfect gentleman.  Not for him a trawl through the old BBH ads (of which there are dozens of gems to showcase); no,  he talked a lot about the digital world (and how it fits so well with TV which remains at the heart of any really succesful brand campaign) and the opportunities it held in the midst of a deep recession where the guard could easily change fundamentally.

He waxed lyrical about X factor and the renewed vigour of ITV (and STV) as a vibrant and exciting audience builder.

It reminded us that this is not a bad time to be in advertising and that we just need to remain in touch with the media landscape and prepared to harness new technologies not be afraid of them.

After all when Guttenberg reinvented bookmaking in the 15th century what was the first book he printed?

The bible!

Nice one…

My old mucker, Rob Morrice
September 16, 2009, 9:32 pm
Filed under: 60 watt, brands, business, creativity, credit crunch, marketing, recession, web2.0 | Tags: , , ,

Rob’s running a B2B agency called IAS in Macclesfield and he loves a bit of controversy.  Mostly he loves telling folk how they are ingrained in convention and that they should learn from his own way of zagging when everyone else zigs.

Here he tells Manchester how to get their collective arses in gear.  Like me, he likes a short para!

Rob had to retouch out the P and J sign because he's moved on these days.

Rob had to retouch out the P and J sign behind him because he's moved on these days.


It never ceases to amaze me that Agencies ignore the basic fundaments of B2B Marketing when marketing themselves.  Before I joined, IAS broke most of its own segmentation rules in its marketing efforts, particularly in its approach to timeline segmentation. And most agencies do the same.

If an agency manages to extract a client out of a relationship with another agency that the client believes is doing a good job, then it’s the exception that proves the rule.

And the rule is that the client decides when it wants to change agency.

With this as a core belief, the task is to be positively front of mind at the time when a client goes to pitch.

And – horror of horrors –  this means you have to spend a lot of money targeting a lot of people a lot!

Because, with the exception of public sector contracts, it’s almost impossible to know when a pitch is going to happen.

A good New Business person can find out some stuff which might not be in the public domain by building up relationships and mining a limited number of clients, but the sheer volume of prospects agencies are targeting precludes us from employing enough New Business people to build up that type of personal relationship across the board.

This means that an agency marketing strategy is simple to describe but will expend a lot of time, effort and money to implement.

You have to meticulously gather the names, addresses and email addresses of all of your prospects and consistently build-up dialogue with them over a long period of time.

At IAS, We have a database of over 6000 UK B2B spenders and we target to communicate with them at least once a month. We use every club in the golf bag. PR, Trade Advertising, Books,  D Mail, Email, Events, Networking, Sales Promotion, Sponsorship, White Papers, Blogs, Social Marketing, levering award wins and anything else we can think of.

For the first six months of this new strategy, very little happened but as we’ve persevered, the phone started to ring more and more with clients asking us to pitch. And of course people are starting to talk about us and a snowball effect ensues.

This is not a particularly politically correct way to describe it but it’s a bit like Blitzkrieg, We blanket bomb our audience so we are assured of getting to the ones who are thinking of going to pitch.

This might sound a costly way of doing it, but its not. We spend barely 3% of our revenue.

The problem however is that Advertising Agencies are a greedy bunch of bastards who allocate no real marketing budget. Hands up those who have spent money with The Drum this year.

And – I would say this of course – most are not B2B savvy so they either don’t know or ignore the basics of B2B Marketing.

Over the years a few agencies have got a bit right; but not many.   My old agency SMARTS used to be good at it before Media Square re-invented it as a PR shop. (He would say that.  Ed.)

My old pal Mark Gorman, had the hang of it when he was MD of 1576 and in his consultancy career at Think Hard since. For example, Mark’s is the top marketing blog in Scotland.  (He said that to suck up and get his article published.  Ed.)

Another Scottish marketing consultant mate of mine was complaining recently that Mark got all the best consultancy projects going and couldn’t understand why.

I had to tell him in no uncertain terms that the fact clients had heard of Mark might have something to do with it.

The point I’m making here I think is an obvious one. Clients aren’t stupid and when they hear the old wah wah which agencies spout about marketing your way out of a recession, the least they’d expect is for us to practice what we preach.

Rob’s last point is a good one and regular readers of this blog will be aware of my involvement in this very practice with 60 Watt.  Here’s an example…


Scottish advertising’s Annus Horribilis
June 16, 2009, 7:30 am
Filed under: advertising, creativity, credit crunch, design, marketing, recession, web2.0

Annus Horribilis cover small

First it was Toyota leaving GRP.  Then HBOS vacates Newhaven.  Now Subway departs Frame.

Add to the that the demise of Pointsize Wolffe and Graphic Partners last week from the design sector and we are witnessing something close to carnage.

Sure, we’re keeping calm and carrying on and, true, some of this may reflect the changing of the guard, particularly in the design sector, but it doesn’t make for pretty reading and my heart goes out to all of those guys who’ve seen important business, and in fact their entire business in some cases, vacate the premises.

Stick in there folks.


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