— On Comms Design. From London


how-brands-grow1Retention is never cheaper than acquisition. It actually never has been.

And interestingly (and this is where I wholeheartedly agree with him), this IS one of the most often mentioned myths of marketing. People DO say and believe that retention is cheaper than acquisition. I, like many, took this at face value and never stopped to question it. The enormity of this misconception strikes you, though, the minute you do stop and think. The logic of the statement does exist: once you’ve established a relationship with someone, they are more likely to choose you. It kinda makes sense. But then you realize

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Jon Steel is one of the people who made planning what it is today. He started off in the planning department at BMP and was the youngest person to ever be appointed to the board of BMP at 26. He then moved on to lead strategy for Goodby, Silvertein and Partners in the US and is currently working in a global consulting role for WPP. I saw him last week speak at APG’s Nosiy Thinking and this is a summary of that speech.

Entitled Reasons to be Grumpy, Steel’s speech focused mainly on reminding the audience of what planning started as: a research-based skill within the agencies, meant to lay an information foundation to the creative process. He put significant emphasis on the importance of having enough information before applying common-sense and instinct to problem-solving which I think it something we should have etched in the walls of every meeting room in every agency.

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I see this in younger planners/strategists: the need to be in front of the client, to be heard, to decide on the big things. If you’re a planner and you desire those things, you’re in the wrong trade. Planners don’t ever get recognition from being the “source” of stuff. You will always be the “resource” for a lot of things but never the initiator of much, unless you’re lucky and you have a creative director who’s old enough and wise enough to understand the power of empowering people through recognition. But mostly you will work to support people whose most important desire, like yours, is to be also recognized. So you can either fight with your creative and client lead to get the recognition you deserve, learn to seek recognition in a more niche way (within your planning community or become bigger than your role and blog, speak at events etc.) or simply give up.

I’ve found that there is a more meaningful solution, though–> you can do the best work of your life and live with the quiet realization that you have contributed in a meaningful way to something great.  If that’s not enough for you, then you need to reconsider your career choice.

I just came back from a Masterclass in Effectiveness at local IPA where I was fortunate to hear 4 smart people present 4 smart campaigns. What stayed with me, though, was the realization that we need to be very precise with the terminology we employ when we discuss the role and effects of communication.

Someone in the panel used the word fame as an way of thinking about the outcome of the campaigns we make, and soon that one word descended into multiple interpretations from the audience among which “something viral”, “something everyone talks about”, “something cool”, “something on brand”, “something useful, meaningful”, to the point where someone felt the need to ask but what if being famous is not in our brand’s DNA. One of the speakers then casually dropped this into the mix “we all know that fame quadruples the effects of a campaign” which further confused everyone as to what was being discussed.

It only goes to show how we should be very precise in describing what the point of a campaign is. Ultimately, as service providers, we are held by the objectives and metrics of our clients. If they leave it to us to set objectives, these should be intrinsically linked to sales and brand and any word we use to describe any step in between our work and sales or brand results had better be clear.


About 2 weeks ago, I got really upset at seeing this ad and posted a heartfelt “fuck you” to the advertiser behind it. My original post is here and includes a share of an article in the Guardian that, at that time, 2 weeks back, was smugly noticing that we have given in to advertising messages but forgotten to take a stand. The article said “Feminists may fondly recall the Fiat advert – slogan: “if it were a lady, it would get its bottom pinched” – that one clever woman vandalised with the words “if this lady was a car she’d run you down”. You rarely see such things these days, but the art of subvertising is alive and well on the internet.”

I didn’t particularly like the article  mostly because it takes that defeatist, “if we could make the perfect world we would, but unfortunately socialism is dead” stance that I really really hate from neo-socialists, but at the time it was the only thing being shared on the sheer ugliness that the ad was.

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Have you heard this? I have. Several times in several agencies I was working at one time or the other. The client does not like strategy so let’s not do any “strategy slides”. The client does not like strategy, he/she likes to evaluate creative and guess the strategy. The client does not like strategy so let’s not discuss metrics, brand tracking, wider objectives and focus on the creative.

When I was starting as a planner, I got all paranoid when hearing this and thought the client lead was trying to keep me from client-facing time. Later, I thought clients had the prerogative of being so in charge of their strategy that they did not need to be reminded of what it was.

It seems to me now, however, that a more insidious thing is happening and it’s not the client’s fault and not the planner’s fault and most certainly not strategy’s fault.  We are effectively misunderstanding the role of strategists.

When clients’ give off the vibe of “not liking strategy” what they do not like

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Every year, around xmas, a battle is fought on who makes the most watched xmas TV ad. In Britain.

This year’s contenders:


I think I may have my personal winner. Here’s Sainsbury’s (it’s more meaningful to me because I live next to the Tower of London and witnessed the poppy fields grow)


John Lewis


Marks & Spencer

Argos (?)

Selling an idea is the most difficult thing in the world. First, because it has no shape and people’s understanding of what that idea is can be shaped only by what they already know. Second, because the idea needs to meet expectations and exceed them only this much. Not too much because this is nor art, I keep reminding my younger colleagues. Third, because all the parties involved have different metrics they measure the success of an idea by. The young Art Director wants to become famous in a small community of avantgarde designers. The Client Lead needs to get a good review so he can ask for a raise. The Brand Manager needs to sell that idea to Product Managers. The CMO needs to make money. While they agree in theory on a brief, their inner motivations are different.

So fear, sometimes that we push our clients too far when challenging them to take on ideas which are unshaped, way beyond the normal expectations and not meeting with their inner motivations. Is a successful idea that which amazes by a young Art Director’s standards? That which the client can buy, as the Client Lead wants? Or that which the Brand Manager feel he can sell into his boss?

I have no answer but I believe that when making a decision ALL should be starting from the same metrics. Therefore, I believe that agreement on briefs is paramount and deep, intense backgrounds to every brief and every idea are necessary. It also helps if we have a tissue session now and then.

I have been asking myself this question for a while.

Can you build a brand with just online comms? And when I mean build brand, I don’t mean add to an already existing brand universe that also gets fed with offline messages. I don’t mean the stuff that Coca-Cola is doing, seeding video content exclusive to online. And I also don’t mean start a brand online and target it at people who will only be online. Plus, no tech-only brands. You cannot be the next Google, Facebook, Amazon. Your actual existence cannot be linked to the medium of communication.

I mean, build brand as in be a brand that gives up all offline comms and just uses the Internet for a couple of years. No offline stuff. Produce everything just for online.

Would we be able to see brand universe enriched and changed in significant percentages? How would that affect overall awareness of the brand? How would that affect budgets? How would that affect the skills of your marketing team and the agencies you would pick to work for this?

We don’t need to answer these questions and I am not really trying to. But it would be interesting to know 🙂

E complicat sa compui un articol in care critici indirect donatul/actele de caritate. E ca si cum ai scrie un articol despre cum ursii panda sunt o aberatie a naturii pentru ca nu folosesc la nimic. Dar sunt simpatici, nu?

Asa si cu #icebucketchallenge asta. L-au preluat o multime de oameni care l-au “refolosit” ca sa atraga atentia asupra altor cauze, ca sa doneze altor asociatii, ca sa ridice alte probleme. In teorie nu e nicio problema cu asta, nu? Ca doar e important sa stim despre toate cauzele din lume si daca avem cum sa le promovam mai eficient, more power to us.

Acum, insa, ia sa ne gandim la problema in felul asta: #icebucketchallenge este, dupa orice definitie, un exercitiu de marketing, de promovare. Obiectivul acestui challenge este simplu: awareness sau bani. Ce activitati au ca obiective awareness sau bani? Marketingul si advertisingul.

Bun. Sa zicem ca o alta activitate de marketing, spre exemplu, campania Mastercard cu ” Emotia e priceless. Pentru restul exista Mastercard” are rezultate la fel de bune ca si #icebucketchallenge la awareness si bani ptr Mastercard. De ce sa nu folosim acelasi algoritm si sa vindem Coca-Cola? Sau sa vindem asigurari ING? “Fericirea din ochii bunicii, priceless. Pentru ca bunica sa fie fericita, da-i o asigurare ING”?

Ce se intampla cu #icebucketchallenge in aceste momente este furt de concept creativ 🙂 as simple as that. Si din pacate scopul nu scuza mijloacele. Nu poti dona ptr SLA in Romania? Nu te baga la #icebucketchallenge. Ai alta cauza de promovat? Angajeaza-ti agentie. #icebucketchallenge nu e un meme pe care il facem ca e distractiv, nu te poti auto-provoca la asa ceva “pentru ca il fac niste oameni prin America”. Nu numai ca pare ca nu iei in serios treaba dar diluezi un mesaj care incepuse foarte clar si care a sfarsit la Florin Salam 🙁

Ai folosit hashtagul #icebucketchallenge ca sa pui oamenii sa doneze altor cauze? Ai furat un concept creativ. In agentiile serioase cineva te-ar fi dat afara a doua zi.


Nu va speriati, nu e o postare cu tenta politica. Ma intreb doar, usor consternata apropos de posibilitatea unei candidaturi a dnei Udrea la prezidentiale, daca la noi in tara se ia vreo decizie pe baza de research. Evident, dilema mea e poate explicabila prin faptul ca majoritatea informatiilor pe care le am despre cum se contruiesc campaniile prezidentiale deriva din filme si seriale americane sau britanice unde, pe langa o gramada de intrigi si mizerii, la socoteala intra niste “heavy research and polling”. Cu alte cuvinte, n-am vazut inca film in care candidatura la alegerile prezidentiale sa fie bazata pe complet altceva decat convingerea demonstrata cu date ca omul ala are sanse sa obtina suficiente voturi (subliniez ca in House of Cards omul NU e ales, ci ajunge presedinte printr-o “tehnicalitate”, pentru ca si el e constient ca in mod democratic nu o sa-l aleaga nimeni)

In cazul dnei Udrea insa, oricum m-as uita, nu cred ca exista cifre care sa-i justifice candidatura. In primul rand e femeie. Si rog feministele romance sa se abtina sau, constructiv, sa se puna serios pe treaba pentru ca, in orice conditii si inca multi ani de acu incolo, nu cred ca Romania este o tara pregatita sa aleaga cinstit o femeie. Nu suntem o natiune cu o istorie matriarhala puternica cum sunt unele state africane unde exista femei presedinte. Nu avem o istorie de femei puternice in politica cum se intampla in Baltice sau SUA. Nu suntem cu mentalitatea suficient de “acolo”, lucru vizibil in primul si primul rand in modul in care deciziile de cumparare se iau in familia standard romaneasca. In plus, oricat de “sexy” ar fi dna Udrea pentru populatia masculina mai putin sofisticata a tarii, nu vad totusi barbatii votand cu organul de jos pentru ca e, pur si simplu, umilitor ptr masculul roman sa aleaga o femeie.

Mi-e greu sa cred ca exista un sondaj de opinie facut pe bune la noi in tara din care a reiesit ca dna Udrea ar avea vreo sansa, repet, daca e o campanie cinstita. Daca e sa ne luam dupa anumite televiziuni din tara, mai mult de jumatate din populatia votanta nu iubeste pe “pupila” Presedintelui actual tocmai din cauza filiatiei dintre dansa si acesta. “Tinerimea”, mai putin aservita acestor televiziuni, a votat cu perseverenta cu “outsiderii” si o sa se orienteze catre Monica Macovei. Da, tot o femeie. Care da, sa fim seriosi, are si mai putine sanse decat dna Udrea, dar nu pentru ca e femeie, ci pentru ca n-are in spate o masinarie de galeti cu zahar si faina si autobuze si morti votanti.

Dar intrebarea initiala ramane aproape morometiana: pe ce se bazeaza posibila candidatura a dnei Udrea in Romania? Imi vine greu sa cred ca pe date. Si atunci ma intreb ce sanse are tara asta unde un proces esential ca stabilirea unui candidat viabil e facut nu intr-un mod informat ci pe alte considerente (probabil toate extrem de gresite). Ce respect pentru strategie si cercetare putem avea cand ele nu sunt luate in considerare in decizii mari?


PS: Imi pare rau ca spun asta si o sa votez cu Monica Macovei dar cred ca toata echipa dansei e constienta ca e un candidat de sacrificiu care pregateste terenul pentru, posibil, o femeie candidat in cativa ani buni. Din pacate, oricat de nasoala ar fi situatia in tara, inca mentalul colectiv nu e pregatit pentru asa ceva.