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Jef bangs the Golden Drum

At the beginning of October, Jef attended the annual Golden Drum advertising festival in Slovenia, where he participated in a contest for young advertising professionals (that’s him in action above) and got inspired by campaigns from a region that’s geographically close but culturally still a long way away. Here’s his review. “New Europe, New Thinking.” This year’s Golden Drum slogan got me interested. I can see 90% of what happens at the Cannes Creative Awards on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. So time for something new. Time to find out what’s happening in advertising on the edges of Europe.
Draw a line from Finland to Israel, then pull back to Austria, finish the triangle, and you’ll find Slovenia somewhere in the middle of ‘New Europe’. Did I get to see communist propaganda and Iron Curtain jokes? Not really. Some remnants maybe. Like a ‘save the babies’ campaign in Serbia, where the mortality rate for premature babies is around 60% due to the lack of modern incubators. But don’t get the wrong impression, ‘New Europe’ might have different issues to address but its communication approach isn’t so different from ours.
Our friends are totally on top of ‘new’ media, maybe even more than we are. With fewer established practices and less bad habits to unlearn, they’re working with a refreshing freedom and taking more risks than us jaded souls in the West. With both really good and really bad campaigns as a result.
But let’s stick with the good stuff. Remember Rom? Romania’s not-so-favorite candy bar got ‘Americanized’ last year. Stars and Stripes printed on the wrapper and so on. The result was uproar as people took to the streets to demand their Romanian Rom back. Now, one year later, Rom’s agency has done it again with a campaign that gave the Romanian people back their diginity:
The Rom case perfectly illustrates what sets New Europe apart from the West: different issues, more balls and often simple/low budget solutions which are attached to the national feeling and culture. Many campaigns were a variation on bad driving, drunk driving, insane driving or corruption. Even the conflict between Israel and Palestine led to award-winning work (see below).
Golden Drum was a week full of different perspectives. I met smart account managers from Bucharest and brilliant graphic designers from Skopje. Cheaper than Cannes, but still able to attract speakers from the likes of W+K, it should definitely be on your agenda next year.
Some of the campaigns that stuck with me:
Blood Relations – Israel
Your Last Journey – Romania
Make the Politicians Work – Russia

New work for BR

Some fun little stop-motion videos we made to help BR promote its back-to-school campaign recently.

The Book Review: Monoculture

Monoculture: How One Story is Changing Everything
Welcome to the first in an occasional new series of in-depth book reviews. Here, Alex is drawn in by a narrative about a meta narrative. Monoculture , by “deep generalist” F.S. Michaels is an attempt to tell, or retell, the story that defines our age. It’s a fiercely researched, forcefully stated and a frankly cynical deconstruction of the master story we’ve all become unwilling or, in the case of us advertising folk, willing characters in.
Stories are deeply ingrained and deeply rewarding aspects of our lives but it’s the master story, Michaels suggests, that defines our culture and gives rise to a monoculture. Plots of previous master stories included the religious monoculture of spiritual superstition followed by the scientific monoculture of the 17 th Century as it gradually exorcised the demons of its predecessor with advances in science, mathematics and technology. Today’s monoculture, Michaels argues, is economic. Today’s master story is one of efficiency and mutually beneficial transaction and Michaels believes it’s profoundly influencing our work, our relationships with others and the environment, our community, our physical and spiritual health, our education and our creativity.
Monoculture is an attempt to articulate what we as a society perhaps already know but can’t voice ourselves. It’s an attempt to wrangle our inherent understanding and indescribable discontent onto the printed page then cover and bind it before it escapes again. This is its real triumph, it’s an honest and at times painful reminder of how the economic monoculture has changed everything, and when Michaels says “everything” she has 30 pages of endnotes and a 15-page bibliography to prove it.
There’s an irony in trying to suggest ways in which Monoculture could shape the advertising industry, but I’ll try. At first glance, the chapter Your Creativity is perhaps the most relevant (in fact it occasionally addresses us personally) as Michaels outlines the less than romantic and less than struggling artists of the economic monoculture and their place in the booming ‘creative industries’.
The Monoculture Effect is an equally important chapter as it touches on the risks of creativity and individual freedom in contrast to the risk averse nature of financial viability. But most importantly, the work in its entirety forces us to think about the world we live in; we’re perpetual consumers in a market relying on a lack of resources, or supply and demand. It’s the heightened awareness that Michaels offers that can be most powerful for brands as they begin conversations with equally enlightened and cynical consumers. Monoculture , in its final chapters, attempts the daunting task of emancipating us from the economic story we find ourselves in, and whether or not it succeeds might not matter, I doubt we’re ready for it anyway.
Monoculture succeeds in a way that transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau might in Walden. Both works (and many others) force us to reread the story we find ourselves in and maybe even think about rewriting it. Though on the topic, Walden is required reading, the research alone in Monoculture is enough to force you to think about the economic story we’re in and wonder what story might be next.

Posted in: Our daily life Tags: F.S Michaels , monoculture

Should agencies act more like start-ups?

This was the topic of our regular Friday morning ‘vitamin’ last Friday. It’s a discussion that has intensified since AKQA’s Rei Inamoto  got the ball rolling at SXSW  this year.
We wanted to dig deeper into the discussion (and look at it more specifically though the lens of the Danish tech scene) so we asked Rasmus Viemose from  Founders House  and Steffen Tiedemann from  23  to come by the agency and present their companies and their perspectives on start-up culture.
Being a 70-person agency – big in Danish terms – the session gave us a lot to reflect on in terms of how we can be inspired by the culture and drive of smaller, more agile companies.
I’ve grouped my reflections into five broad themes/questions that I believe any agency (or company in general) would benefit from considering:
1. Maintain the freedom to think freely: A start-up by its very nature has no baggage weighing it down. If we opened our doors today instead of 1976, no believed-to-be best practices, and no track record of doing things in a certain way, how would we build this agency? What competences would we prioritise? What clients would we try for? Indeed, what business would we be in?
2.Focus on the big questions: As a start-up, you have to be really sharp on your idea. If you’re not able to pitch it precisely and compellingly, no one will buy into it. Rasmus described it as being sharp on the impact you want to make and narrowing all your fuzzy ideas down into one simple, meaningful idea. The lesson here is that I’m pretty sure that we could be even better at sharpening our own idea but also the ideas we pitch to clients – regardless of whether we’re talking about positioning, campaign ideas, product development ideas or something else. I think it’s a common mistake in many client-agency relationships that we seem to lose focus on the big idea and end up discussing all the executional issues way too early in the process.
3. Sharpen your argumentation: It’s obvious that start-ups go through various iterations with financial stakeholders to convince them of the beauty and viability of their big idea. I’m also quite sure that some of the start-ups that end up getting the financials in place are probably not necessarily the ones with the isolated best idea but the ones with the good idea and the argumentation in place. So every time we whine about clients not ‘seeing the greatness in our ideas’, let’s point the finger at ourselves and ask if we really had the most compelling argumentation and pitch for the idea.
4. Having something at stake: In our industry there’s the saying that ‘no one is better than his/her latest campaign’. But is this really true? You usually don’t get fired for a bad campaign, at least not the first time (you could as an agency but probably not as an individual). And I’m not arguing that this should be the case but wondering how we can maintain a secure working environment (where failures are allowed) and still give everybody (including management) a sense of urgency and the passion and determination to do our best work. Everytime.
5. Get the people who can solve your challenge together (and only them): Uhh, this one hurts. How many people – in agencies or other companies – can honestly say they haven’t been in meetings where they’ve thought ‘why am I here?’ Or ‘what’s his/her contribution in this context?’ Our business is becoming more complex, as is our value chain. Communication generalists hook up with discipline experts and executional experts, we develop processes, briefing templates, statement of work documents, handshakes, etc. I’m not saying that it isn’t important to document your process – both internally and with the client – I’m just reflecting on the number of people involved in the process from idea to execution and how we – within every project and process – can get the most out of every individual’s competence and energy. Project scoping (what are we doing, why, how, who and when) is a key competence going forward if we want to maintain agility and flexibility and keep employees doing what they do best instead of just sitting in on endless discussions because they might have input.

Great results for LEGO Friends

LEGO came out with some great results last week, driven in part by the huge success of its Friends theme, sales of which are double what was expected. Here’s a selection of the best news coverage here in Denmark:
BureauBiz highlights our role in the success of LEGO Friends
Berlingske pinpoints Friends as key to LEGO’s recent growth.
DR picks up on LEGO’s plans to increase hiring , again partly a result of Friends’ success.

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