Saturday, April 17, 2010

The 10 Commandments According to Boyle

Happy Days

Seanie Boyle, my old Saatchi planning partner (who, for his sins, now works at JWT New York), was invited to speak at the 4As Transformation Conference in San Francisco recently.

It’s a dangerous thing to let a maverick Irishman on stage. Especially when you ask him to speak for no more than 4 minutes (he went over by a minute and a half, naughty boy). He gave the audience a sermon based on his STOP and START commandments.

Roger Makak, Asia’s most awarded advertising monkey, was impressed. “Although Sean has put on some weight, his words were lean and mean. His commandments should be watched by every adman that still cares about the business.”

Check out his video on youtube. Or if you haven’t got the time, here’s a quick summary of his points below, with a little bit of commentary by Roger.

1. Start telling the truth (we lie to each other, lie to our clients and we lie to consumers. Stop lying and start telling the truth. Unless it’s a spoof like a fake copywriter who’s really a monkey. Then that’s just good old fun).

2. Stop the bloody politics (Seanie reckons there’s too many money men in the business. And when things are all about money, instead of the work, politics become rampant. Put passion first, put money second. Unless you’re a monkey and then bananas should be pretty high on the list, too).

3. Start having fun again (we used to be the envy of the salary men. Now we’re just like them. We need to start swinging around).

4. Stop over thinking things (our business has got really complicated. People over analyze. It’s a simple business. Even a primate can do it).

5. Start doing something (we talk about stuff so much – I think this is particular to the US – that it takes years for stuff to get through. Stop talking. Stop Bullshitting and start doing).

6. Stop the incessant research (research is a crutch. Stop using it. Loads of it is bollocks anyway).

7. Start doing good (we should give back to the community. Why not take the money we spend on irrelevant award shows and start doing some good with it. Like ending homelessness. I’m alright, I’ve got a tree).

8. Stop banging on about digital (it doesn’t exist. It’s just the air that we breathe. Ideas are king, digital is just a channel).

9. Start ups again please (the big networks thought they had it all sewn up. But things happened – see previous 8 points above – which have given rise to independents. Seanie reckons the more the better. Has anyone called their agency APE yet?)

10. Stop using animals in commercials (every creative director in the US tries to sell a commercial with an animal in it. I think Sean’s being a little bit critical here. As far as I’m concerned, there’s far too much use of humans in ads).

More content from the author: 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Why scam is dead. (And why you’re dead too if you’re still playing the game.)

“That’s pretty rich coming from you Andy,” I can hear some of you saying, “you’re the King of scam”.

That may well have been true a couple of years ago (although I was more of a Prince than a King), but it’s not true today. A couple of things happened in the past two years which changed my perspective on the whole issue. But before we talk about those events, let’s spend a little time examining why scam became so prevalent in the first place.


In the eighties and nineties, our business was fast becoming a commodity. Media was king and the creative agencies were quickly being relegated to second-class citizens. The majority of clients (not all, to be fair) could make an average commercial and carpet-bomb living rooms until the poor consumer was brainwashed into buying the product. There was no incentive for a client to buy cutting edge advertising (in fact, buying edgy creative was quite often the fast track to a short career).

Agencies, in an attempt to differentiate themselves (and thus not be seen as a commodity), decided creative reputation was the key to success. So they started to chase creative awards with a vengeance. It became the desire of every agency CEO to have a chart in their credentials that showed they were an award-winning agency. And not just in local and regional shows, but further afield, too: Cannes, One Show and the Clios

But how do you win awards with clients that are content with carpet-bombing? You can’t. So you find a couple of pro bono clients. No agency ever got chastised for winning metal for a charity. Or even a chicken rice stall, it seemed.

But then something came along that changed the game. The Creative Rankings.

Initially brought out by Campaign Brief Asia (then by Donald Gunn and subsequently by other organizations), they became an instant hit. It was like the pop charts for the advertising industry. If you became the number one creative in Asia (or even number twenty), you felt like a rock star. And you were guaranteed a flood of offers from a myriad of agencies.

Every regional network wanted to be number one. Every local agency wanted to be number one. Every Creative Director wanted to be number one. Every Copywriter and Art Director wanted to be number one. Even a monkey wanted to be number one. It became an obsession. Perhaps even a sickness. But there was a flaw in the system. It wasn’t a quality game, it was a volume game. One Gold could be out-pointed by four finalists.

So agencies, realizing how difficult it was to get a Gold played the numbers game and churned out shitloads of ads. Why produce two great campaigns when you could produce twenty good ones? And increase your chances in the great award lottery.

But you can’t do twenty good campaigns for your real, existing clients (the carpet bombers). So campaigns for little companies started appearing: restaurants, magazines, hotels, herbal remedies, bars and hemorrhoid creams.

And that’s how the scam game proliferated into something that was akin to an arms race. And it was condoned by CEOs and Regional Presidents because they soon came to realize the only way to attract talent was by being an award-winning agency. The industry had created a vicious cycle for itself.


I was an inherent part of the rankings game, both with Ogilvy and my current agency Saatchi & Saatchi. It was fun. Being number one every year made you feel like king of the hill.

But the game has changed. The rise of the Internet and the explosion of social networks changed everything. The original reasons for doing scam are fast disappearing: in a fragmented media world, clients can no longer carpet-bomb their consumers. Which means creativity is becoming a valuable asset again.

More than that, the form of creativity is changing. It’s not about the 30 second TV spot or a double page print ad any more. It’s about big media agnostic ideas that have scale, are viral in nature and allow participation. You can’t scam these kinds of campaigns. They’re too big, take too much time to make and cost serious money.  Some sensible agencies have realized it’s a about fewer, high quality ideas that have an impact on culture rather than a one off idea that is only seen by a small, usually out of touch, advertising jury.

I think the rankings still have a place in our industry (we are a business that craves and needs recognition). And there’s already a re-adjustment taking place. Scam is declining and real work is on the rise.


Back to the events that changed my view on scam. There are two of them:

1. About two and half years ago, I saw a campaign from our Beijing office for HP (watch it on Youtube here). It was a bit messy but it had a dynamism about it that struck a chord. The traction with consumers was huge and the results in market were astounding (the campaign took 1.5% market share off Lenovo in just six months). As I examined the film, and uncovered more intelligence of the mechanics behind it, I had an epiphany. I was looking at the future.

Based on that case study, I worked with fellow Saatchi guys to formulate an approach. We called it Community Marketing. It has since become a core offering from Saatchi. And many clients are buying it – and seeing tremendous success with it.

2. A short while afterwards, I had a Regional Creative Director’s meeting in Bangkok (about 15 CDs from around the region turned up). There was a hearty and passionate discussion around the type of work we were doing. We did a brutal self-appraisal of where we were.

I conducted a poll, “Why do we like winning awards?” The responses ranged from personal reputation, getting job offers and building a portfolio to attracting clients, winning new business and creating good PR in the marketplace. Then I did something naughty. I asked people to score the responses.  1 was low impact, 10 was high impact.

Not surprisingly, anything to do with personal reputation and building a great portfolio had high scores: 8s, 9s, and 10s. Anything to do with actually running and building the business had low scores: 2s, 3,s and 4s. So, we were chasing awards based on purely selfish reasons at a time when agencies were struggling to find their way in the new world. Our approach to awards was entirely at odds with what we had to do as a business. It was a situation that was unsustainable.

I made a brave statement. “If we’re still winning Gold Lions for print 3 years from now, we’re dead in the water.” Most agreed. Joel Clement dubbed the phrase Printosaurus. And we committed ourselves to doing the kind of work that would give us a stake in the new world.


If you’re still spending your time creating and crafting scam print, you’re in deep shit. In 3 years from now you will be redundant. If a young creative came to me today with five print Lions in his book, and nothing else, he wouldn’t get a job. A Gold print Lion now means nothing. It’s holds no currency in the new world.

So reinvent now and have a future.

Follow my training course on the Media website: A crash course in surviving the new world of advertising

Other links of the author: Man from Zork

Friday, April 2, 2010

How to spot a Printosaurus

As most of us know, the advertising world has changed forever. The explosive rise of the Internet and social networks has made sure of that. But despite the obvious transformations taking place in our industry, many ad guys still live in denial, convinced the Internet is a fad and newspapers will make a spectacular comeback. I like to call this breed of people Printosaurus (a term invented by my Regional Head of Art, Joel Clement).

A Printosaurus is easy to spot, especially when you strike up a conversation with him. Mention Flash and he’ll wonder if you’re talking about a famous Super Hero. Ask him about Facebook and he’ll think you’re referring to a book of mug shots the police use to help people identify criminals. Enquire if he’s got a Blog and he’ll be convinced you’re talking about a piece of wood that’s been cut into the shape of the letter B.

“They’re everywhere,” said Roger Makak, Asia’s most awarded advertising monkey. “You see them huddling in dark corners talking to each other about the latest print campaign. They’ll argue for hours about the size of the logo and whether art pulls should have a 2 inch or 3 inch border.”

One Printosaurus was recently overheard asking his reptilian colleague if he knew what RSS stood for. “I don’t know,” was the reply. “Really Smelly Snot?”