WELCOME TO THE DRAYTON BIRD BLOG - Commonsense about marketing, business and life

Leave now if easily shocked or politically correct. Otherwise, please leave your comments. Statements such as "brilliant", "hugely perceptive", "what a splendid man" and "can I buy you dinner at the restaurant of your choice" are all greeted with glee.

If you like, I'll e-mail you each new dollop of drivel when I publish it. Just click here to subscribe. If you want to succeed faster, get my 101 helpful marketing ideas, one every 3 days. People love them - maybe because they're free. Go to www.draytonbirdcommonsense.com and register. You also a get a free copy of the best marketing book ever written

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Asleep on the job? Surely not.

After a bracing few days pontification at Ken McCarthy's System Seminar in Chicago, I'm back in Brooklyn to find I have become a grandfather again - though I'm very worried, as young Rowan Drayton is 2 months premature.

So we won't talk about that, but about something I noticed when on an architectural tour of the Windy City** where one of the many interesting buildings is the HQ of Crane Publications, who publish AdAge.

I began my career over half a century ago on a trade magazine, and am somewhat relieved that I never kept any copies because most trade magazines are rubbish - though AdAge is very good, unlike its U.K. counterpart, Campaign, which is little more than an extended gossip column.

Most advertising industry publications (and I read several) tend to be full of arse-licking interviews of marketing directors, with many a quote about their vision, courage and farsightedness, mostly from either their advertising agency, one of its competitors hoping to snare some business or someone they drink with.

There is little serious analysis, because trade journalists are poorly paid and rarely know or are industrious enough to learn much about the industry in question. The publications really exist to make money from advertising space and conferences which are often even worse than the publications since they don't pay the speakers - who tend to be marketing directors there to boast about their stupefyingly dull "strategies".

There are exceptions, but as a breed marketing directors seem to be either incompetent or exceptionally unfortunate, as the only figures I have seen suggest that in the U.S. and U.K. they last on average less than than 18 months on the job. Just long enough to make fine promises, change everything whether it is good or bad so as to be seen doing something, produce little, no or downright bad results, get found out and sent on their way with a goodly sum.

One reason for this, I have always thought, is that the people who hire them - the chief executives - tend to know nothing about marketing. Another is that rather than seeking fresh talent they tend to hire people who have done the job before, thus perpetuating a never ending spiral of mediocrity.

For some reason this is particularly the case in the financial services industry where people who have virtually destroyed good businesses (in one case
did destroy a fine old firm through a witless exercise in "rebranding" - the halfwits' substitute for thought) have no trouble finding new mugs to hire them. This shows that the hirers themselves are so stupid or lazy that they fail to look at the careers of their new hirings.

All this is prompted by an unintentionally hilarious little piece I saw in Aussie Adnews which read: "Snooze national marketing director Drew Warren-Smith has left the company after more than 10 years". A poignant extra touch was the fact that the city where this sad parting occurred was misspelt as Melbounre. Par for the course in this kind of journalism.

The high point of my visit to Chicago was nothing to do with marketing or architecture. It was an evening listening to the
astonishing 87 year old Von Freeman, still playing great tenor sax and cracking funny jokes in a great little joint called the Apartment on the South Side. He really encouraged me to keep going till I drop. See him on Tuesday nights - and remember Lester Young.

**Incidentally, the "windy" title, our excellent Chicago guide told us, comes not from the weather but from the verbosity of 19th century Chicago politicians. And if you're ever in Chicago, I recommend 312 restaurant, which gave me some of the best Italian food I've had outside Italy - and very reasonably priced if you don't drink the wine, which is absurdly, even laughably, overpriced in Chicago restaurants.

blog comments powered by Disqus