Fail to plan, plan to fail

We've done some good marketing of Preview over the past year, but to be honest there's not been the tightly executed plan that you'd expect from an agency who sells strategic campaigns. it hasn't been random scatterings, we had our objectives and tactics worked out but what we didn't have was a co-ordinated schedule of work and clear distinction of roles.

so as we come to the end of the year i've talked myself in to devising next year's marketing plan. it's been ages since i was involved in devising a strategic plan. it's another perfect opportunity for me to get lost in a new stream of thinking. i'm presenting the first draft at our next director's meeting and looking forward to having feedback. like our brand work it's a stripped back approach that focusses on a couple of key areas. no bullshit. no overly dense wedges of invalid information. clear. simple. that's the preview way.

i really do love planning and planners. the first time i worked with a planner was at chemistry. one planner in particular blew my mind. a huge amount fell in to place when i worked with a planner for the first time. when a planner presents facts, figures and plans it becomes a science. suddenly it's not about an aesthetic, it's not about which shade of green the client likes, it's about what gets the results and responses.

i'd really love to integrate planners in to more of our work at Preview. it really gives that edge over creative agencies that just say 'i think this is best'.



I'm looking for a mentor.

I'm looking for a creative director who has been there, seen that, won the pitch, opened the overseas office, hired the team, popped the champagne, written the book and accepted the awards.

Esssentially i'd like the opportunity to talk with somebody who has walked the path i'm heading down and can give me some advice on being a creative director. i've searched around the local area, but i don't think anyone fits the bill so i'm scouring london for someone who is willing to spend no more than an hour a month to talking to me.

There are mentoring programmes run by The Chamber of Commerce (Sussex Enterprise), but they are not connected to the creative industry, so i don't feel they can fulfill my needs.

It's tricky, as i doubt it's very appealing for a successful creative director to give up any of their time. The search goes on.


My coke habit

I work with brands. The world's biggest brand is Coke. You can see the appeal.

Coca Cola is like no other brand in the history of everything. Any bar, restaurant, cafe or beverage seller across the world is likely to sell it. They totally dominate their market. How many times have you ordered a JD and Virgin Cola?

Whilst i understand their global domination has not been achieved entirely on the merits of their product or on ethical business practice, but i'm bewildered by how far reaching and deeply ingrained it has become. i can't imagine any other brand reaching the same heights as Coca-Cola.

A couple of months ago Creative Review ran an article on the redesign of the Coke can and that was really the first time i took notice of their packaging. It's oftern said that 'the best design
is invisible' but it suddenly struck me their is a wealth of good graphics and advertising coming out of Coke right now.

I will happily admit that i don't drink the stuff and would never want to let my kids drinks it. But i've now got a nasty habit of collecting images, photos and cans. I've tried quitting, but i'm addicted. I love it.

my collection...

switching channels

the very best aspect of working for a full service agency is the range of projects i turn my hand to. this week alone i've been involved in interface design, print design, photography and motion design. i love the diversity. i keeps me in touch with the fundamentals of design. moving from one process and medium to another you are able to pick out which parts of the process are the same. i love learning new production methods and technologies and i often wonder how far i could take the same skill set.

product design and fashion design are clearly very far removed, but are their routes the same as print? fundamentally i'd say no. neither fashion nor product design stems from communicating values through aesthetics. but both require the identification of the end user and the functionality of the finished item.

i read an interview with a 'web designer' years ago and one of his comments has really stuck with me. he said 'if i'm designing a website, a poster or a door the process would be exactly the same. give me anything and i'll tackle it'. while i admire the wish to explore i also realise the need for experts. i'm happy to get involved in motion design work, but i know where my limits lie and i have the phone number of the best motion designer in brighton. so as ringo said 'all i need to get by is a little help from my friends'.


hello bill

saw this billboard outside brighton train station last week. it's difficult to see from the cack phone pic, but it's for an ad agency near brighton called zerofiftyone.

they are trading as 'the environmentally friendly full service ad agency'. i haven't seen an agency advertise on that scale for a long time. i wonder what kind of response it would get.


brand, brand branding

a while back i wrote up a piece on carrying out Preview's rebrand. as with most of my writing (this blog included) i'm not 100% happy with my finished work. i'm certainly not as happy with the write up as i am with the design work, which is probably the reason i'm a designer and not a copywriter.

however it's not the easiest project to undertake. a brand agency needs to have an impeccable brand otherwise nobody is ever going trust you with their own brand. on a much larger scale enterprise ig has now renamed and rebranded themselves. the brand union is not transformation i fell in love with. it doesn't carry the same warmth as wolff olins and it doesn't have the elite nature that attik brings. but there is still some interesting information on there for people like me who are looking to learn and get an insight in to their operation. i can't imagine many clients will fall in love with it or form any emotional attachment through their collateral.


My recent NMA letter

Here is the letter i wrote to NMA this week...

Reading Paul Lee's comments on UK digital ad spend (Consumers prefer print ads for now NMA 08.11.07) re-ignited the old adage that 'Print is Dead'. It appears that the ultimate demise of traditional agencies models is far from happening.

You only have to glance over NMA's recent Top 100 list to see that the lines between online and offline agencies is blurring. Nearly 20 of the 100 leading digital agencies listed don't count digital as their core service. The pages of industry magazines are filling with reports of ad agencies winning digital pitches and digital agencies winning advertising pitches. Every other agency is securing digitally focussed creative talent to bolster their offering. It's no secret that in the past more traditional brand and ad agencies needed to keep up with the digital design world in order to survive, but it now seems that digital agencies need to watch their backs. Integrated agencies are gathering momentum and removing the need for marketing and brand managers to manage numerous creative agency rosters.

It would seem that placing the client's brand at the centre of your offering is now more important than taking complete control over one media stream. Is it true that the old dinosaurs are learning to adapt and survive?

We'll wait and see if this is published.

Subtractivist web design

Here are two websites that i love this week. I don't want this blog to be another 'ooh look what i saw on the web' listing. But these are two examples of people stripping the form back to very basic formats and using a large amount of space to create impact.



Pitch Lists

New Business Development™ has always seemed like a dark art to me. i have just never worked out how one goes about getting new clients, knocking on doors or even finding a 'pitch list' or 'agency roster'.

the elusive 'pitch list' is something i've always been aware of but never really understood. where are they? who owns them? how does one get on them? my understanding of how design agencies are run has expanded hugely in the past year, but that is the area of the puzzle that remains fragmented. i'd like to get a 'new business developer' and lock them in a glass box, just do i can watch them at work.

someone recently pointed me in the direction of a couple of organisations that offer 'marketing services' - which actually translates as offering a recruitment agent style of service to marketing departments who want to hire design agencies. they hold lists of agencies and put different ones forward when their clients need agencies. my goal over the next six months is to get on as many of those lists as possible. oh yes 2008 is our year.


Wired Sussex Portfolio Clinic/Designers Night

Last week we took part in Wired Sussex's annual series of events. Firstly it was the Portfolio Clinic which is essential a room full of design professionals offering advice and feedback to students, graduates, freelancers etc on their portfolios. it was great to be in one room with so many other local designers and chat with our peers. the whole evening seemed really long and exhausting my advice was probably much more useful and coherent at the start of the event, as the complimentary wine was all that fuelled me towards the end. although it was knackering, it was also a lot of fun and i'm a big supporter of this event. i'd certainly be up for mucking in again next year.

on friday it was 'designers night' - bit of an unusual title as it implies only designers are allowed, much a like some kind of 'gentlemen's club' or 'ladies night'. anyways the presentations varied from high quality design and art direction to less welcome sales pitches from suppliers (stock galleries, sound designers etc). whilst it was great to hear from the speakers and the opportunity to meet up with some friends and former colleagues was nice, the whole evening felt tainted by one fucked heckler. during one of the better presentation one member of the audience took it upon herself to point out the supposed futility of graphic experimentation. i'm not against expressing an opposing opinion, but this was very little more than attention seeking and misplaced aggression. sadly the organisers left it to the speaker (!) to deal with this nightmare. the poor bugger was stranded on stage while she hurled abuse and the rest of the audience turned nasty on her. it was not fun seeing someone literally dragged from the venue. it would have been better if the host had controlled the situation, but i guess it's not the kind of event where these things usually break out. i mean it's not exactly the united nations is it.


busy week

It's been another busy ass week in the studio. we've been interviewing front end developers, which seems endless. i've pretty much been looking for good developers in one form or another for the past year. but hopefully we've got to a good point in our search now. it seems that demand is outstripping supply right now, so developers can afford to be picky and can command a high price.

i've also been working on some client proposals - how many good christmas ideas are there out there?

i'm still struggling with our showreel, the difference between trying to produce motion work on and pc and a mac is huge. the last showreel i cut on my g4 laptop was over in two days, but this one is dragging on for weeks trying to negotiate screen draw and byte differences. it will be fantastic when it's done, but digging up all the old data to be captured and rendering the edits is not my favourite time waster.

we've also sent out some tasty chunks of work to the printers this week, so far we've polished off a brochure which included mettalic foil, silver ink and two types of gf smith colourplan stock, a set of business cards for our marketing portal project, a holiday brochure, an exhibition panel which is headed for singapore and we've also uploaded a beta version of our desktop app.

amazingly we've found time amongst all that to arrange this year's secret santa.


Presents are nice

got this from everyone in the studio. makes me very happy.



We just got our copy of this year's D&AD annual in the studio. It's a mighty, mighty volume. I'm expecting to arrive in one morning and find a broken desk under the book. I'm not a big fan of the design in this edition, but it's all about the content and my word there is some incredible work happening at the moment. i've only skimmed through the first few sections and already my tiny mind is blown. i'm also quietly giddy about seeing us listed in next year's appendix.


Agency Expansion

Here at Preview we have some big plans for the next few years. Our intention is to increase in capacity, turnover and staff. One of the obvious problems is space. Whilst we have a relatively big space, it's clearly somewhere that would get very cosy, very quickly and to be honest i'd be reluctant to leave the building as we've all put so much work in to it. This train of thought lead me on to looking at how other agencies go about the business of opening new offices in to new areas. When i spoke to Simon at Poke, he told me about their new office in New York which was started by finding/head hunting three partners to head it up and run it. He also talked about the days of running Deepend when they would hire designers in other countries and have them work on briefs from the UK.

A whole new approach taken by WK was to essentially buy an agency in China and rebrand it as their own. This seems like a pretty good as long as you don't destroy a good agency in the process. It's pretty much an off the shelf new office, complete with clients and staff.

These thoughts fill my head with plans for taking over the planet. Mwooohahahahahaaaaa

WS Portfolio Clinic

Next week i'm off to the Wired Sussex Portfolio Clinic. I've been before, but last time i was freelance and taking my portfolio to shove in front of agencies. But now i'm on the other side of the table. Not only is there a good cross section of other agencies taking part, but you never know what your going to get from the attendees. I'm always keen to meet quality freelancers and i'm still hunting for a new designer to join our team, so i'm hoping to do a little fishing whilst i'm there. I will be fully loaded with business cards to dish out.

I'm looking forward to the event. I'm a big fan of the work Wired Sussex have done over the years and i'm always happy to get involved with design orientated groups and associations. When i started freelancing and i went to this same event i got so much inpiration and understanding from meeting creative directors. it was also great to get feedback on my work at the time. i just hope someone comes away from the event thinking we've helped them in their career.