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Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Watch out! Menaces about - especially Olympic fascists. Plus a little about my folly

Well I put that up because a friend sent it and it amused me.

In marketing there are many equivalent follies - financially, if not physically as dangerous.

Take the poster at the bottom, put up by the Olympic Nazis - and if at all possible deface it..

It is on a road near the station here in Bristol. The traffic goes whizzing past - so nobody sees it anyhow: just another example of the way our money gets pissed away by The Great Clueless Who Run Things.

Please note the following.

Not content with having the ugliest Olympic logo ever at a cost of £400,000, Wolf, Olins, the famous Rip Off Design Specialists created an extraordinarily hideous typeface to go with it.

Then we see what I can only call an insult to athletes three cartoon half-wits standing on a car who clearly should have their heads jammed down the nearest toilet asap.

They are there to remind us that the roads to the Olympics will be usurped by assorted creeps, free-loaders, politicians and bribe-takers preventing ordinary people (who will pay for this farce) from using them.

Why any sane person would want to remind us all of this is a mystery; but then so are many of the decisions these people make.

I shall keep well away from London and the TV throughout something that has as much to do with the Olympic spirit as a pool of puke. I would certainly encourage anyone who could arrange for massive blocks of ice the size of automobiles to fall from a great height on the entire unOlympic Freeloaders Committee

The only good thing is that the design is so bad that nobody will notice.

You, however, if you get my emails, will have noticed a positive avalanche about my Bristol copy day, which I must apologise for, as they are likely to continue.

The thing is that although the seats are filling up, thank God, I may have made a foolish mistake.

I'll explain why in a day or two - but anyhow, you don't have to read my guff unless you want to make more money. And you don't have to book now unless you want to save £100.

I must apologise to those who have booked yet keep getting emails. De-duping is extraordinarily time-consuming. But I have made a series of short videos which you may find interesting anyhow.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Is baseball like business? A wonderfully irrelevant idea from a department that rarely has any; THE most important job - and why I'm thrilled to bits

My regular correspondent Andrew Gadsden - Saviour of Tea - sent me two things yesterday, both with a lesson.

One (I think it was a joke: he is a bit of a wag) told me that at last I can buy a falafel franchise.

I have a great interest in franchises: I ran the first ever franchise exhibition in this country at the Lancaster Gate Hotel in 1969. But I have no interest in falafel, which I regard as not far removed from loose cement with flavouring.

The other thing he mentioned was a new piece of folly among HR people.

The great French leader Clemenceau said that war is too important to be left to the generals. In my view, people are too important to be left to HR departments.

When I came into business the phrase Human Resources was unknown. They had personnel departments. I guess that sounded too dull, so someone devised the new name - which reeks of inhumanity - to make them sound more important.

Tonight in my speech for the Royal Mail I shall suggest, among other things, that the most important asset in any business is people.

I have always thought finding and training good people is my number one job. In the last year I have found three excellent copywriters. I am thrilled to bits. I hope they will free me to write two new books.

But what HR person can spot a potentially good copywriter or art director, or recognise the likely traits?

Anyhow the Human Resources drones are all a-flutter because of a film about a baseball manager who has managed to find under-priced players with real potential and do extremely well as result (most professional sport is about buying and selling nowadays).

Now baseball is a sport which revels in statistics about even the tiniest details. It is easy to compile them. How many home runs and such.

Is business like that? There are very few equivalent statistics.

"Was in the top quartile last year for long and boring reports"; "Managed to stay on as Marketing Director of a bank without being found out for 18 months (20% more than average)"; "Was able to stamp out any new ideas for 9 months - a new record for his department"; Attended 53% more pointless meetings than his counterparts"; "Wasted £49 million on a re-branding that failed" - and so on.

Anyhow, here's the piece in question: http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2012/04/16/moneyball-and-the-hr-department/

And if you want a few more insights like the ones above, well, you'll have to come to Bristol on May 30th, when I shall tell you about a few of the things I got wrong, so you don't have to.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Good versus bad: the best way to learn - an all-new seminar and a little Oscar Wilde

I don't know if I told you this before, but God knows how many years ago I got an interview at Young and Rubicam in London - then one of the two or three best agencies around.

The creative director was Norman Berry - but before I found out whether I would get the job, he left.

He ended up as worldwide creative director of Ogilvy and Mather, and the work they were doing was so good that it was one of the three chief reasons I sold my business to them.

I met him again, after a twenty two year gap, at a big dinner to celebrate David Ogilvy's 75th birthday. I said "So where's the bloody job, Norman?"

By that time I was doing the same job as him on the direct side of the business, and I was interested in how he taught people.

He did a show called Good Ad, Bad Ad - and as far as I can tell he did the same talk every time. Being easily bored and lacking self-discipline I could never manage that. But I have always thought that showing examples of what is good and bad is better than waffling on about theory.

As Einstein observed, "Example is not only a way to teach; it is the only way to teach."

So here are two email subject lines I saw this morning.

One read: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack

Every year, approximately 785,000 Americans suffer a first heart attack. And 470,000 who've already had one or more heart attacks have another one. The scary thing is that 25 percent of ALL heart attacks happen "silently," without clear or obvious symptoms.

Even when symptoms occur, they can be so mild or vague, most people don't even realize it's heart-related (unless they are made aware). Four things in particular are the most sinister signs of a silent heart attack.

These four things are the focus of a recent video presentation by renowned cardiovascular expert Dr. Chauncey Crandall.

That is brilliant. To anyone of a certain age, it is almost irresistible.

The other read: Here it is...the email you've been waiting for..


I'm gonna come right out and say that this product is unfair. I resisted buying it at first because I thought it was too good to be true..

Some people using it have been able to literally quadruple their income with it..

I know because that happened to me..

What am I talking about?

Check it out here.

To me this is good too in one sense.

It is good if you are a shameless liar bent on parting gullible fools from their money because it uses some neat tricks that work - like the suggestion that it's so good it's unfair.

But this person, and many like him, should be in jail. They are the Bernie Madoffs of marketing.

Anyhow, would you be interested in 149 examples of what NOT to do? After all, if Peter Drucker was right in saying the aim of business is to avoid making a loss it could be useful.

Well I am doing a seminar next Tuesday in London about this - but I'm afraid you can't come as it filled up in two days a week ago after two emails from the organisers - the Royal Mail.

Clearly, folly has its attractions. Therefore on May 31st I will be incorporating this talk into a one day event in Bristol on integrated marketing.

You will be hearing more than you could ever want to about this in the next three weeks or so.

I apologise for that, but there is an easy alternative: just don't read my emails.

The full title of the talk I mentioned is I wouldn't do that if I were you: 149 simple, stupid and amazingly popular ways to screw up your business.

You get the idea?

During it I will lovingly describe some (but not all) the dumb things I have seen, with more than a few shamefaced references to my own vast catalogue of stupidities.

Oscar Wilde said "Experience is the name we give to our mistakes."

I have a LOT of experience.

NB: Quite a few people have said they are interested in a seminar on how to integrate their marketing.

But if this added selection of assorted buffoonery appeals, just email me, Drayton@draytonbird.com, saying "Buffoon" - because I often am.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Like to see one of the best demolitions of advertising stupidity ever? Also, how not to evaluate copy - and how not to write it. Plus an easy headline-writing technique

When you read this demolition, note the date it was put together: early '60's, when a lot of advertising was better (but some worse).

The art director involved, Hal Riney, became one of the best advertising men of my time. Eventually his agency was bought by Ogilvy and Mather, but I think he broke free.

Here are two of his commercials. He wrote the copy and did the voice overs.


Before the second one he explains how it got made.

And please remember: if you don't sell it to the client, it doesn't get made.


Here's the demolition.

Talking about stupidity, a month or so ago I wrote a letter for a client which he loved. It was three pages long, and was aimed at senior executives.

I thought it was pretty good, too.

When some silly woman in the US head office saw it she said it would never work with the immortal words, "I'm not a copywriter and I'm not a CEO but I am convinced this will not work."

That is a nigh-on flawless demonstration of how not to evaluate copy. Not only are you not the prospect; you know nothing about copy. Brilliant.

So I wrote back saying, well, I am a copywriter and I have been a CEO and I think I know what I'm doing.

It didn't help. As Goethe remarked, "With idiots even God is helpless". I hope she decides to be her own lawyer in a vicious divorce case.

The U.K. guy in that firm was so incensed he resigned. Good for him.

By the way, as a reminder to leave the country, I shall be running another copy day in Bristol on either May 30th or May 31st.

I believe that Steve Harrison will be joining me.

And if you want to know how not to write good copy, one answer is, copy other people's bad ideas.

A good example is the current vogue for redefining things. Anything will do.

An ad for Caffrey's beer has the line "Redefining smooth".

I'd barely recovered from marvelling at this creative breakthrough when three pages on I saw an ad for a new "electronic" cigarette. The line was Smoking. Redefined.

So if you don't have even a scintilla of an idea, try a full stop. But don't think for a minute it'll make you look anything but a complete tosser.

If you don't want to look a complete tosser try being an utter bore. Just copy whoever wrote the line "The world of investment at your fingertips" for HSBC.

It's easy. You just replace the word "investment" with "dog-training", "incest", "synchronised burping" - whatever you like.

You might think it took 7 seconds at most to come up with that piece of literary amnesia.

Actually, it probably took weeks. Each time the writer had an idea, the client said, "Can't you come up with something more boring?"

If you think it's strangling your creativity you don't have to use "the world of" idea. You could use "Passionate about" - as in "Passionate about incest" - or then again, maybe not.

Come to think about it, what about "Synchronised burping. Redefined"? That has a ring about it, don't you think?

People get paid real money to come up with this stuff, you know.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Does talent run in families? And is cockney slang dying? Take a butcher's at this tale from Portobello Road, featured in Creative Review.

Butcher's is cockney back-slang for look.

So butcher's is short for butcher's hook which leads to look. Savvy?

Now go and take a butcher's at http://www.creativereview.co.uk/cr-blog/2012/april/butchers-hook-say-hello.

Make sure you read the comments, which are a perfect example of The Biter Bit - and very funny.

Why am I so interested? Partly because Dan Jones, one of the graduates in this enterprise, is the son of my long-time art director and drinking partner Chris Jones - and his wife Kay, who both started working at our agency in the early 1980s.

So I have seen snippets of Dan and the others growing up over the years.

But also because the Butcher's Hook idea gives people a chance to express themselves. Although Britain is a mess today, we have always been very inventive. I believe there is a huge amount of talent being wasted.

I also believe that creativity is more likely to blossom among immigrants. Every time I hear some creepy politician currying favour by moaning about immigration I feel like pointing out that it is immigrants, in any society, who tend to produce the best ideas.

Good ideas come from the unexpected juxtaposition of seemingly unlinked ideas. The thought of having your drawing pop out through the letterbox is a perfect example. When we are young we all have lots of ideas. Nobody has told us what is impossible. Then the imagination is stifled. Some people are seen as creative and others aren't.

To what degree does talent run in families? The Bach family produced several generations of fine musicians, but none as able as J. S. Bach, though his son C. P. E. Bach came close.

Other than David Ogilvy Dan's father Chris is the most able person I have worked with closely. About 12 years ago I interviewed him and at that time he had won over 150 awards. He got a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Caples in New York long before me.

So did Rory Sutherland, for that matter. Two years ago when he spoke at www.eadim.com he said our old London agency had more talented people than anywhere he had ever worked. I am going to write about that again - but you don't have to read it.

Going back to the butcher's hook I was sad to read that Londoners no longer know as much as they did. http://now-here-this.timeout.com/2012/03/29/its-all-gone-pete-tong-for-cockney-rhyming-slang/


Friday, 6 April 2012

Easter frolics: Schizophrenia on the bookstalls – and Nokialunacy on the streets

Strange as it may seem to intellectuals like you and me, most of the population give little thought to the weighty matters that command our attention.

They don’t fret about the future of the Euro, the printing of money or who is a bigger liar, Romney, or Cameron. They care little about the antics of bankers and politicians, the pensions gap or the plight of the polar bear.

They want to know what Lauren is up to – which judging by the two magazine covers illustrated here seems to be about 311 lbs. 

The question that consumes their minds is whether Lauren (whoever she may be, as I have no idea, but I guess she is a “star” of something or other) is worried or not. 

What do you think?

Maybe she is just confused, like the people who do Nokia’s posters, one of which I saw yesterday, too – and for that matter the people who design their phones.

 Not long ago my PA, the radiant Chloe, who runs much of my business life and my partner Marta who sorts out the rest decided that a Nokia would be good for me as it had both a touch screen and a mini-typewriter built in.

They had the best of intentions, and I thought it made sense (never argue with determined women).
But none of us reckoned with the fact that the phone is bloody useless. Nothing on it works well, and by some mysterious magic  it loses about 5 minutes a week. 

Of course the reptiles at the Carphone Warehouse who sold it to me won’t exchange it for something simpler, so I shall have to buy something else. An i-phone, maybe. Or an android … but aren’t they creatures from StarWars?

Either way, their posters are an even bigger wank than their phones. Whoever put that one together or approved it knew less nothing about what makes people buy, let alone what makes a good poster (which, among other things, is a simple promise expressed in very few words and easily readable at a glance.)

Happy Easter, everyone.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Who cares if you don't know grammar? And what's tango got to do with it?

Yesterday I got an email headed "Call me Drayton - I have set time aside to help you" from someone called Ben Rogers, who I've never heard of.

Why should I call him Drayton when his name is Ben? Maybe he should call me Ben. I prefer Drayton, to be honest. I'm used to it. What do you think?

Really his grammar - to be exact his punctuation - let him down.

But I think he has set time aside to get money out of me. In fact I am pretty sure because of what else he said - and also the fact that he sells property.

This in particular had me worried: "It always inspires me when people realize they don't know it all and are willing to reach out and ask for extra support...

This is a sign of true success when you can identify your weakness and get help when it's available..."

I translated this to myself as "I really love dealing with people who haven't a clue."

Anyhow, there were some good sales tricks in the e-mail, including "drop me a reply e-mail with the best time of day to call you and we can set up a call."

Then came more alarm bells: "This works out for me quite nicely as I have just finished a project and am just psyching myself up for a busy rest of 2012. So let's get on the phone and help each other."

This read to me like "I need some more cash and plan to help myself to some of yours."

Maybe I am maligning Mr. Rogers. And maybe it doesn't matter if you're any good at grammar or not. Maybe it doesn't even matter if you can write or not.

But I suspect it does.

Yet the funny thing is that I believe reading is if anything more important than writing. I never stop reading or writing - at least while I'm awake.

Yesterday I was reading a newsletter about the origins of tango. I am no Rudolf Valentino, though when much younger I actually danced on TV - but that's another story.

The newsletter had actually been sent to my partner who is tango-manic. She smiled when she saw me reading it. I asked her why.

She said, "I am always astonished at how many different things you find interesting."

David Ogilvy did a talk which I have lost about what makes a good copywriter. I can't remember them all but they included insatiable curiosity and skill at the art of nit-picking.

The great Labour MP John Burns wrote in a 1902 pamphlet that "the curse of the working class is ... the poverty of their desires".

The curse of most people nowadays is the poverty of their reading.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Twitter-bilge from Huffington. Two weaknesses to avoid if you want a hope in hell of integrating your marketing

Today my friend Michael Rhodes sent me something interesting from Huffington Post.

This suggested that twitter is a more effective marketing tool than email.

You will only agree if you are cursed with two costly and career-ending weaknesses.

  1. You always believe what research tells you
  2. You have difficulty with basic arithmetic
Otherwise the piece is pure moonshine, as one of my more numerate colleagues pointed out:

"If I read it right only 7% of those questioned said they'd followed a business on Twitter.

Of those 32% would then buy.

Email got 93% saying they'd opt in with 21% then buying.

So with a mythical 1000 people:

22.4 would be Twitter buyers.

195.3 would be email buyers.

So that makes email the clear winner to me."

The Hufflepuffs admit that what people say and what they do are two different things. That is why the overwhelming majority of product launches fail despite billions spent on research.

People often rely on research for the wrong reasons, as David Ogilvy said a good fifty years ago:

He said too many "rely on research for support rather than illumination, as the drunk clutches a lamp-post".

However, in my view research is immensely important - equal second in my list of the four most important factors that determine success in your business. (The least important is the one many firms spend most time on, by the way).

Research is one of the nine essential disciplines I will examine in my one day How to Integrate Your Marketing seminar in Bristol on May 31st.

I feel qualified as, believe it or not, I once helped set up and even named a research company - besides corresponding over the years with some eminent figures in the field and spending an evening with David Ogilvy at Chateau Touffou talking about his experiences with Gallup.

If this seminar interests you, can reply now and get a favourable rate, saving £100, before you actually book.

I will give you this because I want to get an idea of numbers.

Just email me Drayton@Draytonbird.com saying "I want to integrate my marketing".

Just copy that sentence and send it to me if you are genuinely interested.

You are not committed by doing so.

Here is the piece in question: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/02/twitter-business-shopping_n_1397799.html?view=print.

As the Duke of Wellington - then the most famous man in Europe - said to a man who asked him if his name was John Smith, "If you believe that, you will believe anything."

Research is vitally important because it gives you an idea of whether you are on the right lines or not. But very often not much more.

If you want to know all about the other disciplines I discuss - advertising, PR, guerrilla marketing and others - just remember to let me know with that email saying "I want to integrate my marketing".

Why not do it now? To Drayton@draytonbird.com.

When you do I will tell you more about the price and so on.

Or maybe you would prefer to put your faith in twitter.


Monday, 2 April 2012

Easy money going begging: if a thing's worth saying once, it's worth saying twice. With a little dash of corporate misery

When times are difficult, profit is hard to come by.

But in good times and bad there is one place where you're sure to find some.

I was reminded of this because this morning Damian Lloyd, who reads (and he confesses, steals) my stuff regularly, asked me an important question.

He wanted to know what I think about customer retention. He said quite rightly that "by reading your blogs it's clear that you believe in providing an excellent service as the best way to retain custom."

And he wanted to know what I feel about "more structured customer retention programmes - loyalty cards, tactical retention teams etc."

Here is what I believe - and I feel strongly enough about it to discuss it here at some length, and write to my list about it.

I think firms lose millions every day because of poor - or unimaginative - attention to customers. That is why the word "churn" comes up time and again.

People leave you for three reasons.

1. You offer over-generous deals to recruit them and hope they won't notice when you jack the price up a while later.

2. What you deliver is not as good as what you promise.

3. You communicate badly.

Does that makes sense to you?

Well, only you can do something about the first two factors. They require a lot of thought and work.

But you can easily do something about the third.

  • If you look for greater profit keeping people longer is the easiest method; these people - assuming you deliver what you promise - are money for jam.
  • Any method is better than no method. 
  • Most firms tend, like lustful bachelors, to devote themselves to the thrill of the chase - acquisition - rather than retention.
  • I don't like loyalty cards. They are organised bribery. A zero sum game - "everyone else has one; so must we". Giving something real - better service - seems to me better.
  • I tend to hate teams of all kinds, I'm afraid. I doubt if Einstein was much of a team player. But this is a personal quirk.
  • I would prefer a loose structure, where people are asked to come up with ideas that will make customers happier as often as they can.
  • But I guess in large organisations managers think things should run in a way that minimises the need to think, which means teams and processes are important.
  • I also suspect that is why many people in such organisations are not very happy - in fact one wrote to me today saying so, as follows:
"Ah Drayton, pretty much everything you write about business and marketing follies is a description of my life at *****. Your new 'How to keep your mouth buttoned up... in meetings' could be a best-seller. The last meeting I was in, I spent writing a poem while pretending to take notes. It was the most productive meeting I'd had in years.

Firms are quite exceptionally bad when it comes to regular service messages sent to customers.

These are actually far more important, relevant and interesting to customers than the promotional stuff firms focus on. I don't care about what you want to sell me. I care about my problems.

But these messages are not seen as "creative", so are given to very junior people to do. Sheer folly. Few of these people can write well, thanks to our laughable educational system.

One insurance firm hired me twice to rewrite their service messages. Not much fun for me, but very important for them and their customers.

(They hired me twice because a new marketing director came in after the first time and said my messages were too long and - you guessed it - not "creative" enough. Buffoon.)

If you want to keep customers longer and regain the money that leaks away, you must have people who know how to write and persuade. For that, I suggest my video on the subject.

As I have said God alone knows how many times, good copy costs no more than bad. I think that may apply to service, too.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

"Nothing fails like success" - or how to get hopelessly marooned up your own derriere

This may not interest you much, but I coined the first phrase above about four years ago when the world's economies started to fall apart.

Not long before that we had been hearing moonshine from assorted idiots, economists and smug politicians (see Gordon Brown) that there would never be another recession, capitalism had triumphed and so on.

All this is prompted because today I renewed my subscription to BitDefender, which protects my computer from all the prowling nasties on the internet - or has done so far. BitDefender is highly rated, wins awards and comes from Romania, which I have visited a few times and enjoyed.

But I was worried when I saw what they wrote about Bitdefender's logo or symbol - a dragon-wolf:

"The dragon-wolf's totemic essence and military vigor safeguard and watched over the peace of the ancient Dacian people. Its uncompromising symbol inspires BitDefender's mission to eradicate every kind of computer malware."

The picture is of a dragon-wolf, from the Emperor Trajan's column in Rome. The Dacians, a pretty fearsome bunch, were ancestors of today's Romanians. The Romans were so impressed by them that the legions adopted the dragon-wolf.

But never mind the slightly erratic grammar and that I rather like the dragon-wolf. Bitdefender is just something that protects my computer, not a holy crusade.

The minute you start spending time writing this kind of stuff you are on the path that almost inevitably, sooner or later, leads you up your own backside. If you're not careful you end up sitting in meetings talking guff about slogans and strategy instead of trying to help your customers better. A good example of the sort of thing I mean is here. Utter gobbledegook. http://genoneventures.com/blog/?p=442&goback=%2Egde_2268050_member_104716802

The Bitdefender folk would be better off sorting out the slightly confusing procedure for downloading.

They are in danger of getting complacent. Complacency kills; and the encouraging corollary of nothing fails like success is that nothing succeeds like failure.

When you're in the dumps, you have two choices: you can stay there or do something to climb out.

One of my favourite quotations is from Sir Ernest Rutherford at the Cavendish Laboratory - "We haven't got the money, so we must think."*

What stops you thinking? Many things, I suspect, but delight in your success must come high on the list.

*Another great line from Rutherford was this: "The only possible conclusion the social sciences can draw is: some do, some don't".

I wonder what he would have said about all the current waffle on social media. I keep asking myself one thing: what are unsocial media?