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.

Color: why it’s interesting and why it won’t be “the next Twitter”.

Color invites you to “creates new, dynamic social networks … wherever you go”. It’s getting a lot of attention at the moment, largely because of $41M VC funding. It’s even being hailed as having ‘a very good chance of becoming a large scale success like Twitter‘.

In case you have not yet heard of Color, here’s how Caroline McCarthy describes it for CNET

In Color, photos taken through the app are shared through proximity, something which amasses a list of your contacts through machine learning; in effect, you’ll be able to see all photos around you that were taken with Color. You’ll be able to see the Color photos of the guy sitting two tables away from you at Starbucks, but when he finishes his caramel macchiato and leaves the coffee shop, you can’t see them anymore. But if you spend a lot of time in proximity to someone–an office-mate, for example–that person’s photos will gradually begin to stay in your contacts list for longer.

Someone asked me this week whether I thought it really would be ‘the next Twitter’. I found it hard to say at first, because my first experience with the app had been so awful that I had to go back and try it again to see what I’d missed. It really is a rather hard app to pick up (and has been heavily slated in the App store reviews, often for being hard to understand) but it’s not hard to see that the idea of physical spaces having an invisible cloud of history and shared photos has potential; being able to see other angles you missed, knowing your friend was here yesterday, … you can imagine lots of fun stuff emerging from an experiment like this.

But no, I don’t think it’s going to be “the next Twitter”. Not at all.

Being based on physical proximity makes for a pretty tough first experience. Unless you happen to install and try it while you’re at a big event with at least a couple of other people using it, you’re left with a pretty unsatisfying starting point. Any app that requires you to be in the same place as other people using the same app at the same time is going to have a difficult bootstrap problem.

Most importantly though, Twitter is a platform with an open API allowing other apps to be built on top of it. Want to write your own Twitter client? Want to integrate Twitter into another app? Want to print out tweets that contain the word ‘snow’? Easy. Not so with Color. Want to make a site showing the most recent Color pictures taken in a particular place? You can’t. Unless you’re the Telegraph and you want to do a joint PR thing around the royal wedding (the sanity of which also raised some eyebrows).

That’s not to say that the situation won’t change. Instagram started closed and opened up an API after a few months. That move made it easier for people to make all sorts of really cool apps like Extragram, GramFrame, Instagrid, Instaprint, and many more.

In fact, the most common use I’ve seen of Color so far has been that people will sometimes post a direct link to a picture to Twitter or Facebook. While that’s a useful feature (and in theory leads to more people discovering Color) it does mean that the whole local proximity and physical social discovery aspect of Color becomes optional; people continue to rely on those two tools to maintain their contact networks.

I think in its current incarnation Color is more of a photo sharing service, like Twitpic or Yfrog, with some additional features which might rarely get used. If they open up and offer an API (like Instagram did) they could become a much more interesting thing altogether, but only if it can get – and keep – users. Although I like its innovative approach, I think it’s going to be very tough for this app to become anything like mainstream.

I’ll give Color another chance, but I think I’ll also be looking out for the next next big thing.

Cross-posted to the W+K London blog.

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 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.

Hello/Goodbye: Cow, Pirate, Cyclist



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.

Fortnotes 3 – early January

The first fortnight back at work after Christmas. The snow has given way to rain and drizzle, so London is dark and wet and I feel marginally less energetic than I did in December. Working longer hours and trying to avoid getting home after 8pm too frequently.

Finally got properly involved in some Honda work, so I’m working on two different Honda projects – plus THO, CTC and a little bit of help on two or three other campaigns too. Busy busy. Trying to spend 80% of my time on 20% of the work, but I’m not very good at saying no to things at the moment and struggling slightly to manage my calendar. Will need to learning to say ‘no’ to more things, and hopefully the right things. Generally happy to get involved in everything I physically can at the moment, because they’re usually fun and interesting.

I can now reveal that THO is actually ‘The Hungry One’ for Lurpak. It involves a gorgeous 60 second cinema + TV ad, plus print, foil lids, and some really fun, funny, entertaining online stuff too. By the time I joined, work on it was already well underway but I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the past couple of weeks helping deliver it and the things it needs to make it happen. It’s really nice being able to work closely with the creative directors and there’s a great little team all pulling together behind it. Before Christmas, we bought in Anna Pickard to join that team, specifically to run the Twitter + Facebook presences and she’s doing an amazing job of it and already (despite very small numbers of followers) lots of lovely interactions.

Every time a microwave bell chimes to signal a ready meal’s readiness, an angel loses its wings, and The Hungry One cries hot gravy tears.

The fridge light is not on all the time. No, when the fridge light comes on, it is your stomach having an idea.

Spot on for this campaign. Challenging poor food choices, encouraging the cooking and enjoying of delicious food and all without being too much about the brand. Everyone expects slow growth for the first few weeks and hopefully it’ll gather followers faster once the ad airs on TV. Already, the YouTube release got lots of positive word of mouth (not to mention a quite respectable 40k views within a week).

The Twitter dashboard I’ve been building with Dan (in order to make The Hungry One omniscient) is also going to be useful for CTC and probably lots of other projects too. Side effect: did you know that UK tweeters talk most about ‘bacon’ at 8:00am, with a big spike at 11:00am on Saturdays? I’m playing with it and improving it almost daily, often in response to an idea or suggestion from Anna who is actually using it to find tweets to which she might want to respond.

Other work…

A solid few hours with the CTC team helping them on their approach for a new campaign I’m really looking forward to.
Immersing myself in Honda history and culture, and joining the (lovely) creative team for a big project. Borrowed some really lovely books about the life of S. Honda, Thinking differently about cars. Asking questions of everyone I realistically can.

My attendance at the regular agency management meeting keeps getting postponed. Secretly relieved, as being awake and in London at 8:30 is much harder than my usual 9:30. Close to having our first full-time in-house creative community manager to work on social media projects. Actually expecting we might need more than one quite soon; there’s lots more work than we can handle at the moment, and I’m certain it’ll grow further this year.

People are still asking me how I’m finding it, and whether I’m having fun. I’m having a huge amount of fun. When trying to describe W+K London, ‘friendly’ and ‘chaos’ are always the two words that come to mind first. It seems to thrive on creative chaos actually. It’s also very flat, organisationally, and of the places I’ve worked it’s the least obsessed with process. Not that it’s easy or relaxed; just that the buzz of creative energy isn’t hampered by unnecessary paperwork. Things happen. Sometimes confusingly or overwhelmingly, sometimes after a lot of hard work and deliberation and dead ends, but things can sometimes happen quite fast and the end result is always something excellent. I’m already genuinely proud to be part of W+K.

Currently working on and thinking about: recruitment, Honda, butter and delicious cooking, word-of-mouth, conversations.
Currently trying not to think about: Dan H moving to Portland. Is that gas I can smell on the Waterloo & City line?
New terminology: LPL (large project leader, Honda terminology). CD (creative director), 60, 30, 10 (seconds of TV ad).

Fortnotes 2 – end of December

Amazing how fast the first month has gone. Time for a second set of fortnightly weeknotes. Um… fortnotes.

I’ve mainly been sitting downstairs in the kitchen area, near the toast and tea. There’s also a pool table and a set of (never used?) drums. It’s a good spot. People mill around and it’s a great place to hang out to get to know everyone.

THM involved money negotiations, which I largely stayed out of. I did meet up with Bronwen the finance director though. She’s nice.

Spent one solid day on recruitment stuff. Getting to know someone who might apply for the creative community manager role, over Skype. Then a bunch of interviews for the THM role, complete with a writing test(!). Made a decision and let the successful candidate know. All in one day.

A few introductions to ongoing projects and new work. Meeting with Nike for the first time to discuss an interesting project. Got together with Eleanor to get an initial brain dump re Honda. Spent two hours on CTC, reviewing the campaign as a whole and giving some advice. Definitely exciting. Lots of good stuff to be done. Helped with rethinking NT along with Sid and Rob and Andy and Iain Tait (how lovely it is to have the actual Iain Tait in the office at the moment!)

Agency breakfast are on alternating Wednesday mornings. This time, the THM 60″ advert was shown and got a huge round of applause. It is really really good.

Oh, THM is now called THO. Worked with Dan on a dashboard tool for it (which will eventually integrate with the codebase for the Old Spice dashboard. Talked to Ann-Marie, Trent and John in Portland about that).

Did a ‘getting to know Roo’ session where I introduced myself and some things I’ve done. Waffled a bit but everyone was very nice and lots of people stayed to ask questions and chat afterwards. I feel like less of a new starter now. Starting to settle and find the problems where I can help.

Lots of THM THO work, moving from the dashboard back end to the twitter feed front end. The basic twitter module doesn’t do what we need, so I’m spitting out javascript to S3 to be included on the front end site.

Anna (the voice of THO) came in on Tuesday, and spent some time with me, Dan H, and Ray S. She’s funny; she’ll be great. That all kicks off early next year.

Wednesday was a quieter day, and I sat at my quiet little desk upstairs for a change and hacked together a ruby script which generates some javascript which is included on a page which shows some tweets. It was quite fun to get my hands briefly dirty with some coding, especially prototype look-this-is-what-I-mean sort of code.

Nice cup of tea and chat with Iain.

Outside of work, spent a couple of hours with Paul Carr. Paul lives entirely in hotels. I was going to interview him for Shift Run Stop but we ended up just having a nice chat. Also had lunch with a bunch of friends and did a live Shift Run Stop segment on ‘Radio Roundabout’ in which Rhodri Marsden was our very funny guest. He played christmas tunes on his musical saw.

Looking forward to a week off. The agency shuts between Christmas and new year. Very cilvilised.

Fortnotes – first fortnight

I’ve decided that weeknotes are too ambitious. I’m going to do fortnightly notes instead. Fortnotes. Let’s see how it goes.

A good first couple of weeks at W+K London. Getting stuck into some hard (but fun) work, plus a couple of Christmas parties.

I started on Wednesday 1st December, and my first day coincided with the fortnightly agency breakfast meeting. Bacon butty and a cup of tea (yay!) and a chance to show my face to everyone. Met a lot of friendly and welcoming people. Some time with Paul Colman (head of planning) and Andy Cameron (Interactive Creative Director) to get started. Paul and Dan H introduced me to Exciting Project #1 (I’ll call it THM for now), which is going to be brilliant. For the first few weeks, I’m aiming to dedicate most of my time that that project. I’ll also need to keep some time free for long-range stuff.

Having seen the office on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday both involved being snowed in at home, so I was staying in touch via telephone, email and Skype. (I do plan to spend some time working at home every so often, but I had not expected to be doing it quite so soon). Got a more detailed briefing about THM and wrote some social media principles and engagement guidelines to show the client how we intend to interact with people online.

Made some introductions.

Wrote a job spec for a ‘creative community manager’ role. Like a community manager, but emphasising the fact they have to be able to make great stuff as well as engage and interact with people around that stuff.

I got a quick briefing on exciting project #2, NT. Also started playing with Twitter streaming API (via tweetstream Ruby gem) to see what can be done (lots, easily). Also reviewing the dashboard they used for Old Spice with Dan H (it’s very good), working out how to go about hiring people and starting to set up a few meetings for next week.

Brainstorm for NT: Location, badges etc. Thinking about what’s possible with Facebook Places and Foursqare (et al) in a variety of countries. Hmm. Need to see some research.

Meeting (via the telephone) Renny Gleeson in Portland who heads up global interactive strategy. He’s super enthusiastic and amazing.

Lots and lots of time on exciting project #1 (THM), working with Dan H + spending some more time with Dan & Ray the creative directors on it and preparing for client briefing. My input is mainly around how we’ll find and respond to relevant things, principles, engagement guidelines and recruiting the right person. On Tuesday afternoon we showed it to Tony D, then on Wednesday a trip to Leeds to meet the client and flesh out the idea for them. (Oh, and a potential legal issue around THM, which means it might have to be renamed. Everyone struggling to think of a better name. We all like the one we’ve got).

Interviewed two people for the permanent creative community manager role.

Spent a couple of hours with the team brainstorming ideas for Nokia. Tony Davidson popped in to keep us on our toes and encouraging us to push ourselves. It worked.

Spent an hour on CTC project. Mainly finding out what the campaign will be doing and giving input to strategy for the outreach side. Already quite well developed.

Friday was a relatively quiet day, and over lunch I cobbled together a Twitter streaming API ingest script storing results in MySQL in realtime. Fiendishly simple stuff. Pairing with Dan is good too. He set up an Amazon EC2 instance and we spent a bit of the afternoon together getting a basic ingest dashboard prototype installed. A large chunk of Saturday debugging and getting it working properly, and then starting on a basic front end for it.

Agency Christmas party night and Planning team Christmas meal in the same week. and drinks. Both were amazing.

Surprised and delighted to be mentioned in Campaign magazine’s writeup of W+K being their agency of the year for 2010. Named among ‘some very astute hires’. Gosh.

The list of people I need to get to know in the next couple of weeks is quite long. Basically, everyone. I also need to prepare a short ‘meet Roo Reynolds’ session to introduce myself properly.

Being pretty good about keeping focused on THM. Maybe too good; still have not met Honda or Nike teams yet. Need to fix that.

New terminology: ‘above the line’. GAD = Group Account Director (pronounced ‘gad’).
Do say: ‘spot’.
Don’t say ‘TVC’ [television commercial] too frequently.

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