Fortnotes 14

[Being the fourteenth in a fortnightly series of brain dumps: what I’m working on, wondering and worrying about.]

A busy fortnight. As usual.

Now that the Kaiser Chiefs album has been released, I continue to be excited about the analysis the Rev Dan Catt is doing with it. Keeping half an eye on things, but the team on this one doesn’t need too much input from me.

Met with Tess from Thinkbox, who was kind enough to share their ‘Tellyporting’ research with me in person in advance of me speaking at a Thinkbox event soon.

Gave a talk to some friendly students from a University in Texas. Andy, our ICD, talked about our approach to digital and interactive work and I shared a case study. Then Jon and I get them thinking about a specific project and gave them an hour or two to work on a brief we set. Genuinely impressed at the ideas they come back with.

Presented at a conference organised by PRmoment and held at Ketchum (conveniently about 30 seconds walk from my office) for people from the PR industry. Despite possibly the only advertising person in the room, everyone was very welcoming and put up with my nonsense (at one point I actually said “and that’s why they pay us the big bucks”, which even in the context of trying to be disarming and witty should probably have been a capital offence). I shared Cravendale as an example of an integrated digital project. Lots of appreciative smiling and some good questions in the panel session. Sometimes I realise how proud I am to be working at W+K. Thanks to Ben

Sitting in on a couple of creative briefings for some work for Three. Interesting stuff.

My first ‘chemistry meeting’ with a potential new client. This gives them a chance to get to know us (and us a chance to get to know them), so we can all see if we’ll be able to work together one day. Enjoyed this very much.

Starting to hear about a pitch coming up for some new business. Reading the brief, chatting with the planner and starting to understand the background and what the client is looking for. Everyone is excited about the client and the potential for working with them if we win their business. Fingers crossed for the big pitch.

An unusual bit of in-progress work that I can talk about properly; Remember Dot, the world’s smallest stop-motion animation filmed on a Nokia N8 + Cellscope microscope we did with Aardman for Nokia? Well, it’s time for the sequel, and rather than go even smaller we’re turning the idea on its head and hoping to make the worlds largest animation, filmed on a beach in Wales over a week. Having seen the storyboards and animatics, I reckon the film is going to be brilliant. We suggested opening up the production process by sharing footage from the beach, using the Nokia Nseries blog to collect material as a sort of production blog while the film is being made. This is unusual for most projects, where secrecy until the moment of release is very much the norm. Nokia and Aardman were very happy with the idea though, and we worked with Nokia’s word of mouth agency 1000 Heads to make it happen. The shoot itself was slightly hampered by bad weather, (one day and one night of filming have been postponed), but the brave souls on the beach, including some invited guests, got some great footage of the process.


Fortnotes 13

[Being the lucky thirteenth in a fortnightly series of brain dumps: what I’m working on, wondering and worrying about.]

I can finally reveal the super secret project I’ve been getting increasingly excited about in these fortnotes for the past few weeks. The Kaiser Chiefs new album The Future is Medieval is out now, and it’s a bit different. Here’s how it works:

  • Preview 20 new Kaiser Chiefs tracks. Select the 10 you want, and the order in which you want them, for your own album.
  • Design your album artwork (much more fun than it probably sounds).
  • If you like what you’ve made, buy it for £7.50 and download your album.
  • Get your own{username} URL for your personal album [mine is frinstance].
  • You can sell it on through the site, making a £1 cut for each album sold.
  • Profit.

As an agency, we’ve been working on this for ages. Our own Oli Beale (the chap behind James Face and the complaint to Richard Branson) came up with the idea with the band. The launch was simultaneously rather tense, busy and a hell of lot of fun. Most of all, it’s an enormous relief to be finally able to talk about it.

It seems to have gone down rather well. I’ve been collecting various tweets, blog posts and press articles since well before the announcement. Some highlights:

“… my fears that this release could undermine the album format as an artform (and admittedly a physical, band selected release is planned for later this summer) seem unfounded. When I made my version of the album … I found myself getting sucked into sequencing it, trying to work out what would go well together to give the album a certain feel. So in a way it actually made me engage with the album more than the average release. So much so, I’d actually advise you to forget my version and make your own.”Paul Stokes, NME

Most of the coverage has been about the innovative and creative approach, so it’s good to see some really in depth review of the album on the BBC Music site:

“they’ve upped their creative ante somewhat, a number of these songs … coming across as more measured and mature, and a heck of a lot gloomier, than the upbeat bounce-alongs of old. Lead single Little Shocks goes some way to showcasing this murkier atmosphere – where before there was shiny hooks, here the chorus doesn’t leap from the speakers and the whole piece swells with unexpected drama. Can’t Mind My Own Business is indie-pop trapped in a Tron cabinet, while Heard It Break is a sinister sibling of something The Human League might write. Starts With Nothing examines the transitory nature of fortune, of wealth monetary and emotional – it’s rudimentary lyrically, but nevertheless a significant tonal shift for an act predominantly associated with anthems for football terraces. Child of the Jago claims, “This is your nightmare calling” – not quite, but there’s no doubt that the Kaisers have been exploring their darker side, with some exceptional results.” Mike Diver – BBC Music review

I really loved this post too, which nails the approach perfectly:

I would not call myself a fan of the Kaiser Chiefs. I have enjoyed some of their songs but I’ve never bought one of their albums before and probably wouldn’t have noticed this record at all if it had been released conventionally. But today I paid for their new record and now I’m writing a blog about them on this cooler-than-thou music site. And I’m enjoying the record! And I know that’s partly down to the “Wow, I made that” novelty but I’m also genuinely liking the songs, and that’s down to the fact that I was able to tailor the record to my own personal tastes. This is nothing new – people pick and choose songs to put onto their iPod and even edit down and resequence albums in their iTunes – but it’s heartening to see a mainstream act recognising this trend and tailoring their output towards it.Jed, A Girl Called Sam

But best of all though is some amazing work from Rev. Dan Catt who has been messing around with the data and working out which are the most popular tracks, providing some impressively detailed analysis of the project, and even looking into which order people put the tracks. Dan rocks.

Other things I’ve been working on recently include Visit Wales (developing roles and approach), Cravendale (still getting ready for the next phase), spending a bit of time helping out an a really interesting Nokia campaign and appearing in a promotional video for for’s TechCity Launchpad application.

New terminology: PPM = pre production meeting.

Fortnotes 11 & 12

[Being the 11th and 12th in a fortnightly series of brain dumps: what I’m working on, wondering and worrying about.]

Bankholapalooza; a week-and-a-bit off work thanks to Easter, a royal wedding and taking the 3 days in between as holiday.
It’s only once I’m on holiday for a few days that I realise how exhausted I was, so I immediately book a 2 week holiday in July.

A couple of days in Dublin for the Mash 2011 conference (about which I wrote some notes here).

Working on: Cravendale (evaluating and planning the next bit), Visit Wales (helping formulate an approach), Fairtrade (evaluation), Honda (drafting strategy), Nokia (comms plan and community stuff for an upcoming campaign) plus a really big exciting project which I honestly can’t talk about at all.

Generally aiming to be helpful on everything. Sometimes wondering what I should be doing, and if I’m honest feeling a bit stressed at the moment. Trying to focus on the important stuff, but it’s sometimes hard to know which bits are which. Reminding myself that I really love my job.

Managed to work at home for one day (for the first time since early April and the sixth time this year). It’s not the sort of office where working at home is always easy, but it feels good to avoid the commute when I can manage it.

Trying to set up a week in Portland to meet up with colleagues over there some time in August. That would be useful I think.

Fortnotes 10

[Being the tenth in a fortnightly series of brain dumps: what I’m working on, wondering and worrying about.]

A big refurb of the agency is nearly complete, which means we’re no longer squashed together like sardines and the office is once more pleasant place to be.

Being briefed on a couple of interesting new campaigns to see if there are any ways I can be useful. Sometimes it’s as straightforward as asking some questions and making some introductions. I’m trying to keep the number of projects I’m actually working on (as in, getting properly stuck in to and spending serious time on) down to just two or three at once. Trying not to spread myself too thin.

Some time working with creatives on some work for Honda, as well as working on a longer term bit of strategy stuff. Honda continues to take a large chunk of my time.

The other one I’m spending a lot of time on at the moment is a super secret project which I’d love to talk about, but really can’t. Sorry. It’s going to be awesome though. Some people are going to be working pretty much through the Easter holidays on it. I’m not doing that, and I definitely need to take some time off, but am actually a bit sad to be missing out on the next stage of seeing the current creative chaos come together into a real plan. It was good to spend a full day on it though. Spending a whole day thinking about one project felt like a real luxury.

Helping gather metrics and evaluate the performance of a couple of recent campaigns.

The agency celebrates ‘Founders Day’, the anniversary of the founding of the company (April 1st 1982), usually with a day of creative activities and a big party. It’s a bit of a highlight in the social calendar at W+K. Having now experienced my first one, I can say it definitely lives up to its reputation. Great fun, but also a wonderful way to meet people I’d not yet worked with (remember W+K London has more than 200 employees). Oh, and two people got tattoos.

Watched The Great Kevin Chesters give his condensed one-and-a-bit-hours version of everything he saw at TED 2011. Personal highlights from his highlights included:

After presenting ‘some of my collections in roughly chronological order‘ recently, I’ve been continuing to think about collection and curation. A couple more examples I’ve only recently discovered: STFU Parents and the Museum of Online Museums (see more about it here). It’s the mother lode!

The sun has got his hat on and the UK is very hot. And now, some time off. Perfect.

Buying: A new BBQ, plus garden table and chairs so we can enjoy the back garden. Portal 2 to bend my brain.
Watching: Submarine, Source Code, Twenty Twelve, Friday Night Dinner.

Fortnotes 9

[The ninth in a fortnightly series of brain dumps: what I’m working on, wondering and worrying about.]

Shoreditch! Holborn! Piccadilly! Farringdon! Regent Street! Slough!

Lots of bits and pieces. Still mainly Honda, but also meeting a few other teams (some for the first time) to discuss ideas and chip in with thoughts, suggestions and questions.

Spent a day at the D-Media conference and spoke on a panel with Tom Armitage, Matt Sheret which was chaired by Max Gadney. I wish I’d recorded it and I wonder if anyone else did. It was fun. We talked about data and storytelling, sharing examples of how we ask questions of data and how we tell stories with it. Matt talked about being a Data Griot at, Tom talked about Schooloscope. I talked a bit about Nike Grid.

Sad to be losing Dan Hon, who is leaving London and moving to Portland.

Spring is sprung. The sun is out. London is lovely.

Fortnotes 8

[Number eight in a fortnightly series of brain dumps: what I’m working on, wondering and worrying about.]

I spent some time out of the office at a shoot for Cravendale. We were there to help Bertrum Thumbcat (the ringleader of the polydactyl cats in the current Cravendale campaign) make some YouTube videos in which he assesses the capabilities of the recently evolving race of cats with thumbs, putting them to to test for his own satisfaction and to prove a point to humans who might question their abilities. Examples included Can a Thumbcat Blend (which was perhaps the question asked most frequently), Can a Thumbcat play checkers and many more.

Since then, I’ve been working fairly solidly on Honda. Lots going on, some really interesting work coming together. I’m writing strategy stuff and trying to be helpful.

I have been at W+K London for over three months now, which is long enough that various employee benefits kick in including a pension, health & dental, etc. I’m finding it hard to believe that more than a quarter of a year has passed since I joined. As you’ve probably noticed, I’m really enjoying it. It’s hard, chaotic and can be stressful, but people talk about coming to W+K to do the best work of their lives, and I hope that will be true for me too.

I visited the Artfinder team with Dan Hon. They’re a nice bunch and they’re working on some very interesting stuff.

Introducing interesting people to each other remains one of the nicest bits of my new job. Avoiding spreading myself too thin, and making sure that when I get involved with something I’ve got the time to see it through properly, is the hardest. Mainly because I want to say ‘yes’ to absolutely everything.

New starter: Matt Simpson (previously Lead Community Manager at Face). He’ll initially be spending most of his time on Honda and Nestea, but will be getting stuck in to all sorts of other projects too. He was even prepared, on his very first day, to give a presentation to the rest of the Honda Europe team at W+K, researching and preparing examples of community activity around Honda online. As though we’ve just thrown him out of some sort of moving vehicle, he “hit the ground running” and stayed upright very impressively.

In other news, I (still) have a cold. I’ve had it for a couple of months and I’m very bored of it. Spring is springing, it’s lighter in the mornings. I didn’t miss not being at SXSW one bit.

Fortnotes the seventh

[Being the seventh in a fortnightly series of brain dumps: what I’m working on, wondering and worrying about.]

The past couple of weeks have largely been about cats with thumbs for me. If you’ve bumped into me and I’ve appeared a bit distracted, it’s probably because I’ve been thinking about polydactyl cats taking over the internet.

It started with a tense weekend. A certain video started to “go viral” on the “interwebs” quite a big way; the whole team were keeping a close eye on the tone of the comments and the inbound links over the weekend. Then, just as that was calming down, the Cravendale ‘cats with thumbs’ TV campaign launched. I think it’s fair to say that people seem to like it. They’re talking about it too. Weekly mentions of Cravendale on Twitter increased 2226% (21st – 27th Feb vs 28th Feb – 6th March), within a week the ad was viewed over a million times on YouTube. It’s now up to 1.6M views and that video has already been shared on Facebook over 211,000 times. Oh yes.

Bertrum Thumbcat, the ringleader of the polydactyl cats (you can see him picking up a rubber ball in the ad) has used his dextrousness to access Facebook and Twitter and is attracting exactly the sort of passionate involvement from a lot of fans, and making even more people laugh. I was going to write some more about the campaign, but ‘What Katie Does’ has described it so well that I’ll just link to that for now.

As you can imagine, I’m really excited to be involved with such a fun project; I get to work with some properly amazing people. I’m heading to Worthing for a couple of days next week to join the team as the next stage of Bertum’s master plan becomes a reality.

Aside from cats with thumbs, I’ve been spending time working on stuff for Honda, a bit of Fairtrade (what with it being Fairtrade Fortnight and everything), some early work for P&G and not nearly enough to be helpful on Nokia. Plus the usual collection of secret projects, recruitment, longer term projects and meeting nice people.

In fact, a bunch of really interesting and nice people started in the past fortnight, including: Kirsten Rutherford and Lisa Jelliffe lovely antipodean creatives whose collaboration with Mentalgassi you might recognise; Romans Dobzanskis is our new senior creative technologist (he’s a semantic web guru and was previously head of creative tech at Saatchi & Saatchi London); Gavin Gordon-Rogers (previously Executive Creative Director at Glue) joins as Andy Cameron’s ‘lieutenant’ as well as being the Interactive Creative Director for Nokia. They’re all lovely and I’m looking forward to working with them all.


New terminology: NPD = new product development. As you’ve probably guessed, I’m partly writing these down so I can track my understanding of the weird industry lexicon, and partly so I have somewhere to look them up when I forget them again. :-)

Fortnotes 6

[Being the sixth in a fortnightly series of brain dumps: what I’m working on, wondering and worrying about.]

Mostly working on Cravendale, Honda and Lurpak and at the moment. One full day in Leeds with Cravendale clients, showing them our plans for the next few weeks and getting excited with them. Great meeting, and nice to bond with the team over hummus, wine and crisps on the train home. Yay for team picnics.

Also working a bit on Fairtrade, Nestea, P&G, Nokia, and more.

Helping one team put together a community management proposal for a client, and rolling up my sleeves and writing another one myself.

Some time talking with Katie and Will (not the royal couple, though these two are every bit as lovely) about extending some Twitter monitoring and stats gathering work I’ve been doing since I joined. Keen to get their help and involvement. Already gathering some really interesting Twitter data for a bunch of clients now, some fairly useful tools for teams to start playing with and there’s lots more fun to be had in this area.

As ever, some time spent interviewing and recruitment. Expecting to have the first creative community manager start next month, and hoping to offer a second role fairly soon. Helping interviewing for various other creative roles too.

Explaining my job to some friends at another agency, I realise again how good my role is and how much I enjoy it.

Trying to work at home one day per week. Not easy to keep the time free, but the difference it makes is enormous. Some time away from the office every week is really helpful for getting things done.

Reading: ‘What Technology Wants’ by Kevin Kelly, plus a bunch of fiction. Remembering that I used to take photos of the books I’d been reading every month, and wondering why I stopped.

Watching: a recording of Merlin Mann’s talk at Twitter HQ about meetings: “Broken Meetings (and how you’ll fix them)”. There are a lot of meetings at work and when I was managing my own diary I too often allowed it to fill up with back-to-back meetings, leaving me feeling rushed and unproductive. My PA is already amazing at helping me organise my week and protecting my time, and Merlin’s talk reminded me that I can be even braver about setting expectations about what we’ll get out of meetings, not defaulting to 60 minute meetings and not accepting meeting requests which don’t come with an agenda.

Fortnotes 5

[Being the fifth in a fortnightly series of brain dumps: what I’m working on, wondering and worrying about.]

An exciting new project for Cravendale, plus a digital pitch for another client (which involved a bit of research and presenting some feedback and ideas). Lots of work on Honda and Lurpak.

Thursday was Make Good Music day, in which a bunch of us broke into teams and each met one of a handful of up-and-coming bands, with a view to giving them some help/pointers/ideas/etc. Sadly I had to leave before the gig + drinks in the evening, but the few hours I joined in were really fun.

Minor helping out on Fairtrade, which seems to have come together very nicely in the past couple of weeks.

Quite a bit of time on recruitment in the past couple of months; both making introductions and interviewing people.

Shockingly, had to submit my first ever DMCA takedown request on YouTube. I won’t say much about it, but rest assured the infringement was egregious and harmful rather than something we or the client could overlook.

I’ve had a nasty cold (sore throat, blocked nose, cough, etc) for this entire fortnight. Feeling a tiny bit grumpy and more stressed than usual as a result. Finally getting over it now and getting back to my normal self, and starting to go back to the gym/pool a bit more. I’d forgotten how nice it is just to feel normal.

Leila and I have taken a few weeks off Shift Run Stop since Christmas. Leila explains it well here. I’d like to start again though I have no idea when or how or when we’ll manage that. Soon, I hope.

Thinking about: targets and client expectations, conversations, ‘engagement’ vs interactions, reach, interactive video.

Watching: How to Play the Harmonica (the Blues), Stuart Lee on Top Gear, Everything is a Remix, the Float Documentary trailer, lots of cute cat videos (for research purposes, honestly), W+K’s superbowl ad for Chrysler, An Open Letter to Stephen Fry.

Looking at: Twazzup (via Rowan), Facebook’s new page layout, Tiny Geocoder, burning platforms, ‘deep media’ and ‘transmedia’.

Fortnotes 4 – end of January

Trying to begin every week by making a list of all the projects/areas I’ve got some involvement with (about a dozen of them at the moment) and writing down what I need to do next for each of them. Getting Things Done. Oh yes.

I have a PA now, to wrestle my diary into submission. Nina is great, and her help is already allowing me to spend less time worrying about finding time for doing things and more time actually, you know, doing things.

A small team of us began to get our heads around how to approach a pitch, for which I’ve been doing some research and sharing some notes. Early stages so far. Initially felt a lot like staring a huge blank sheet of paper. Paul shared some thoughts about the business challenges, which helped remind us what it’s all about. The problem felt a lot more real after that.

Thinking about Honda recently. Two big projects (plus a small one, in which I’m less involved). I’m trying to maintain balance with mostly-strategic input in one project, and mostly-creative input (working directly with the creatives) on the other.

A day trip to Geneva to speak at a marketing team away day for P&G. A long day, but worth it. I managed to say some interesting things about three different projects from the past couple of years, (since I wasn’t at W+K at the time so it was made possible by my colleagues spending some time filling me in). Focusing my mind by agreeing to speak about things has always been a great way for me to think it through in much more detail than I’d usually need to. Said yes to another speaking engagement, and hoping to do no more than one per month.

Struggling to spend time on all the projects I want to.

Some time getting the ‘Radar’ Dashboard we built into a state where we can deploy it for other clients. Worked with Dan (who is a bit of a whizz with Amazon Web Services) to create and configure a new instance (EC2, RDS and Git are a good combination).

A little bit of peripheral help on the Fairtrade campaign. Mainly making introductions and staying out of the way.

Milestone event: had my first massage in the office. A fortnightly visit from a visiting masseur, with 20 minute slots which fill up fast. Entirely wonderful. I felt taller afterwards.

Spent a bit of time coming up with ideas with Dan H in order to get a self-initiated agency project back on track creatively. That was fun (and surprisingly easy once we left the office and sat in a quiet cafe).

Another day out of the office, this time to judge the Media Guardian Innovation Awards. Really enjoyed this, especially the debate lunch about the Innovator of the Year award.

Dan H is going to Portland for a month, in preparation for moving there properly. I will miss him a lot.

Thinking about: measurement (engagement, interactions, mentions & conversations), consumer decision journey, word of mouth, things real people don’t say about advertising, pink ponies.

New terminology: FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods).

Books I should probably read: ‘Soft’ (Rupert Thomson) via Kevin C, Confessions of an Advertising Man (David Ogilvy) – via everyone.

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