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Friday, 29 February 2008

Typo of the week

Barely had I finished wittering on about how this medium encourages sloppiness than I see I said "thugs" instead of "things." Silly old fool.

By the way, it's not just wet here, it's also freezing. They've had what was the coldest February on record (it's summer here, remember) and on top of that they had the entire normal rainfall for the month in the first four days.

My partner Mal's just gone off to swim round the golf course, his wife Sharon has out doing a few errands, and I'm minding the kids. Babysitting - about my skill level.

Stark terror, a spot of chaos and the chance to save several thousand dollars - all during breakfast

Well, I did my breakfast talk a few hours ago in the Westin in Sydney, which used to be the grand central post office.

The trouble with this speaking game is that it’s just terrifying. I was so frightened that I never even tried till I was 40 – and I still find it scary.

The only good news is that the quality of the result varies in inverse proportion to the quantity of terror.

So last night I slept very badly indeed – to be honest I haven’t slept too well since I arrived here, because I had to do a speech soon after arriving, then three more, plus the odd bit of copy to write or review.

But in the end thugs morning went well, except for the usual technical cock-up. I’d gone to the trouble of interviewing Clayton Makepeace, the world’s highest-paid copywriter, on the phone to get the odd pearl of wisdom.

He said some very perceptive things, and I tested the sound both before going to the venue and before I spoke. But when I pressed the button – nothing. Then the technician came up to the platform. Still nothing. Aaaargh!

Happily this sort of embarrassment always amuses the audience, and they feel sorry for the speaker. Eventually I paraphrased Clayton’s wit and wisdom, and finished with a quiz and some advice.

It was all videoed and I think it turned out very well.

You know, the most valuable thing in the world is good people. There are very few, which I suspect is why the best command such amazing sums. The trouble is, they're hard to spot.

I have achieved little in my life, but I have trained or helped some very good people, and one of the great rewards is that I keep meeting them. Quite a few turned up this morning - in fact one flew in from Melbourne.

But there was one there this morning whose ability I have nothing to do with. She is called Gail Brennan, and is one of the best marketers in Australia – or anywhere else for that matter.

She's not glamorous, she's not trendy, she's not young (but MUCH younger than me) but my goodness, she is GOOD.

She’s worked in the US (she’s a New Yorker) in Italy (speaks Italian), Hong Kong, France and here in Oz. She was our client in Amex at Ogilvy – terrorised us and was so good we hired her. So, later did our competitors, Wunderman.

She did a great job on the IBM account in Europe and she was about to work for Ogilvy on the Dell business in Japan – then they suddenly changed their minds and hired a Japanese.

They’ll regret it.

I don’t know many people who’ve worked internationally at a high level for such demanding clients and agencies and really understand databases. Somebody should snap her up – which is what I said to the audience here.

She was astounded, as she never knew it was coming.

If you need a really good experienced marketer who can work anywhere, just contact me and I'll put you in touch (I don't even know her email address, which shows you what a chance encounter this was, but good people really are like gold dust).

Goodness alone knows how much it would cost to find someone that good through a headhunter. Many thousands.

That’s the end of the commercial for an excellent product.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Well, I brought the weather with me

It's absolutely throwing it down here in Sydney. I was wondering if it was my fault, because it's just like home - but no, it's been like this all summer.

Do you ever realise you've said something stupid, but it's too late to call it back? I do, all the time. And one surefire vehicle for that kind of stupidity is a blog. This format positively encourages sloppy thinking and writing. You just bang out the first thing that pops into your head, whereas I normally revise everything seven or eight times.

So the other day, I said, apropos of Rick the Builder turned List Broker, that "the worst possible preparation for a career in marketing is an education in marketing". Like a lot of slick remarks that please the writer this is misleading.

What I should have said is, "An education in marketing is not the best preparation for a career in marketing. You need experience in other things, the more varied the better."

However, even a marketing education is better than nothing, a fact of which many in marketing seem sublimely unaware.

It helps if you can write decent English, also a vanishing skill. I read this piece of clotted drivel the other day from someone trying to sell me something by e-mail:

"Rules-based triggered email messaging is an inexpensive, automated way to deliver highly relevant content to your audience at specific time intervals. The concept takes a best marketing practice-personal communications based on known customer or prospect preferences, needs or other triggers-and replicates it in your email communications process, providing a timely digital version of the labor-intensive direct personal contact. When used properly, it can yield high customer satisfaction dividends with a minimal investment in both time and money."

Idiots. If that's how they write, imagine the sheer horror of having to meet them. Why do people imagine such pompous tripe makes them seem intelligent. As Churchill said, "Use simple words everyone knows, then everyone will understand."

Mind you, like calls unto like in this world. People who are impressed by such garbage will buy it - and get their just desserts.

Tomorrow I have the pleasure of speaking to 352 marketers at breakfast here in Sydney. Why that number? No idea. We just can't fit any more in the room.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Could you learn from Rick Fitzgerald's secret?

I'm writing this in Manly, a little resort just across the Sydney Harbour, where I'm staying with my Aussie partner Malcolm Auld, his infinitely more attractive wife Sharon and their two kids.

It's shame they've started growing up, because when they were a little younger they used to call me Dragon and my better half Marta Tomater. This gave me great pleasure, I confess.

I'm here doing some speeches and seminars, which I began in Perth on the other side of this continent. I did a keynote speech and a one day seminar for the Australian Fundraising Institute, who certainly live up to their name. They actually asked me to pay $90 for the pleasure of having dinner with the other speakers.

Never come across that one before, I must say. I declined as I'm just as cheap as they are - and I did the work free anyhow. I wonder if they all work for nothing. I somehow doubt it.

When in Perth I met Rick Fitzgerald, who is a list manager and who invited me to lunch. His plane was so late we never had the lunch, but we did have a good chat, and I'll catch him later at the Direct Marketing Fair in London where I'm speaking.

I asked Rick how he got into list management.

"I was a builder for twenty years," he replied. "I fell into it."

Uh? I realise the average list broker/manager has all the skills and dedication of a second rate estate agent - though there are shining exceptions - but this was a new one on me.

It seems he had done some building for a marketing firm and the boss asked him in, not to put up some shelving, as he had imagined, but to sort out who should manage his list.

He spent a few weeks doing this and found that all the brokers he approached were pretty much the same and none too diligent.

"So I said 'I know someone who could do a better job,'" explained Rick."The man said, 'Who?' And I said, 'Me'. And he said, 'You're on. I asked you in because you seemed a reliable bloke. Let's have a trial and see how you go.'"

So Rick sold his building firm and got into, and does pretty well, in the list game.

This proves something I have long believed: the worst possible preparation for a career in marketing is an education in marketing.

And, as Rick pointed out, satisfying people who are building the home of their dreams is a damn sight harder that satisfying the average marketer

Sunday, 17 February 2008

"Author doesn't eat vegetables and is very short. Connections? You decide"

That quirky little line was written by an old friend, author Karen Quinn.

I used to work with - for - her when I did executive training for American Express. who canned me eventually because I was too outspoken. (Dull and safe does better in large organisations).

Anyhow, she was terrific marketer, a very loveable person and probably too bright to stay in the Amex maw forever. So one day she came to her senses and left to write a book, called The Ivy Chronicles, which was a best seller.

It's all about parents fighting to get their kids into the best schools. Very quick with the quips.

Guess what the villain's name is? Drayton Bird! (She asked me first).

Then she wrote another, and now she's got yet another out - Wife in the Fast Lane

Check her out if you like a laugh.

Talking about which, my old partner Glenmore, the intelligence expert, sent me to look at a dog, a cat and a rat.

The man who owns them rigged a harness up for his cat so she wouldn't have to walk so much (like the dog and himself). At some juncture the rat came along and as no one wanted to eat anyone else, the rat started riding with the cat and often, on the cat!

The dog will stand all day and let you talk to him and admire his altruistic, "we are one" personality for a few chin scratches.

The Mayor of Santa Barbara filmed this clip and sent it out as a Christmas card.


If only Muslims and Christians, not to mention the Protestants and Catholics, Greeks and Turks, Arabs and Kurds, Northern and Southern Italians, etc were so sensible.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

On Amy Winehouse: an apology

“Experience,” said Oscar Wilde, “Is the name we give to our mistakes.”

Many, many years ago, I began to realise that I was often wrong. It was probably the fairly late arrival of something approaching maturity.

Then my mother said to me: “It costs nothing to say you’re sorry, Drayton, and it usually makes someone happy.”

Well, Amy won’t be any happier because I admit to taking a few cheap shots at her a while ago in these pages; in fact she won’t know, and wouldn’t give a hoot if she did.

So, yes, she is talented; and yes, it is a shame she is a bit of a druggie and got involved with the oaf Bert Sidebottom before he changed his name to Blake Fielder-Civil.

BUT it is appalling that our disgusting media squander so much space on people who seem to spend their entire time behaving stupidly. And it is astounding that she did actually get a visa to go to the U.S. for the awards. Talk about double standards!

And I always remember another singer with a drug problem who had a good excuse having been forced into prostitution at 15 - and maybe twenty times more talent.

She was called Billie Holiday

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Tonight’s News, as delivered by patronising twats who think we’re as thick as they are

Have you been heaving the odd sigh of relief at not getting a peep out of me for a few days?
I’ve just been too damn busy on a couple of projects, and getting ready for a trip to Australia.
However, a frisson of fury motivated me to write this after seeing the news on the TV channel called More 4, which they really should consider renaming CrassTV.
1. The lady announcer, not content with sitting quietly and telling us what’s been going on insists on walking up and down. Why? Is she just showing off - “I can read a teleprompter and move at the same time”? Or does she think we all suffer from attention deficiency syndrome? Maybe she fears being pelted by rotten fruit and veg.
2. The director – or whoever pulls her strings - certainly deserves to be. Every time she mentions something, the idiot seems to feel the need to show something that tells us what it's all about, as though we're half-wits.
3. For instance, there was an item about Wales – and all of a sudden you saw shots of waves and pebbles on a beach and seagulls, as if to say “this is what Wales is like”. Come on, there's more to Wales than that. Why not someone singing or playing rugby or shagging a sheep? At least it would be involving and suggest something happens in Wales.
4. Then the story moves to Heathrow. Instead of the woman saying what is happening at Heathrow, they feel compelled to cut to a man at Heathrow telling us. What a waste of money. Don’t we all know what a bloody airport looks like? God knows we spend enough time queueing in them.
The world is being run, lock, stock and leaking barrel, by wankers.