I prefer this blog to be about stuff I like.
To be positive, a refuge from the endless whingeing and complaining you find on every street corner of the web.
But something caught my attention that got me thinking.
I’ve often wondered how a business based on creating words and pictures came to be run by people more comfortable with numbers.
Scroll back to the eighties and we’d find Sir Martin Sorrell and John Wren sitting in finance departments, whilst Maurice Levy sat in the I.T. department.
I’m not knocking those departments, but they aren’t at the core of what clients want from agencies.
Usually, career paths are based on matching the strengths of the individual to needs of the business, so how they think is important.
People’s brains come in two very distinct flavours; left-brain, (facts and logic), or right-brain; (intuition and imagination).
Is it good to have a few left-brainers in charge of millions of right-brainers?
Think of it this way; remember that kid at school, the one who was top of the class at maths? Imagine them being put in charge of the English and Art kids.
I think there would be issues.
The maths kid is unlikely to understand why all the Art and English lot never seem to be working, appearing to just chat, moan and make wisecracks.
As for listening to their endless opinions, theories and demands for extra time because ‘it just isn’t there yet’, don’t ask.
The Art and English kids would also have issues.
They’d resist the move to bring in process and order, complaining that you can’t be precise when estimating how long it takes to have a good idea, or that it’s hard to correctly score how much of someone’s heart you’ve captured, how much you’ve touched them or made them think.
It’s tough to turn feelings into numbers, It’s why it’s always made perfect sense to me that people above would be so much more excited about the arrival of digital, big data and all the associated businesses over advertising; it’s numbers, it’s their playing field. (At one point, when I was working at one of Sir Martin’s companies, advertising agency JWT, he declared ‘We are no longer in advertising’, like a mob boss telling people ‘Today, we’re a legit business, no more drugs, killing and prostitution’.)
The problem is, the most important part of the communications business is the communicating.
And if you want to communicate your message to people you’ve never met, the public, intuition and imagination are more useful than logic and facts.
So I’ve often wondered what those left-brainers running things made of us right-brainers creating things.
Having to listen to people double-down it being Dougal not Feargal to shoot the goddamn script, that ‘cheeky’ was a better description than ‘awesome’ or whether the thing even works now with all these bloody changes.
I suspect it’s painful to watch.
All that pfaffing about over words and pictures – ‘GET A LIFE!’
This week a bit of evidence came out that backs up that theory.
“WPP isn’t just a matter of life or death, it was, is and will be more important than that.” – Sir Martin Sorrell.
It was based on this one:
“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.” – Bill Shankly.
I don’t highlight it to criticise him, what Sir Martin says or does is none of my business, but I do wonder whether it offers up an insight into what he values, or doesn’t, in communication.
If, in the unlikely event he’d popped into my office for advice, Id say:
1. ‘Don’t use that quote, you’ve run a massive communications company for donkey’s years FFS, it looks bad to nick someone else’s quote, and it’s famous!, let’s come up with something original?’
SIR MART: ‘I like it.’
2. ‘Don’t use that quote Mart, the structure doesn’t fit you’re message, it feels sellotaped together.’
SIR MART: ‘Not bothered.’
3. ‘Don’t use that quote, you’re coming off a bit tone-deaf Mart.
Bill Shankly comes across as funny and self-deprecating, because it’s ludicrous to suggest kicking around a bag of air is more important than life itself.
You’re coming across as self-regarding and pompous, you’re saying your life’s work is more important than life itself.
SIR MART: ‘Whatever!’
4. ‘Mart! Mart! Mart! Well,You’re killing me here! Well let’s at least sort out the structure?
The Shankly quote works because he buried the lead, we think he’s going to knock those foolish people who think kicking a football around is more important than life and death, only to make a left turn at the end saying ‘it’s more important’.
SIR MART: ‘Geek alert! Geek alert!’
5. ‘You don’t want to change the structure either? If you’re going to insist on using that bloody quote we have to fix the “it was, is and will be” bit, it’s a car crash!
SIR MART: ‘But I want to thank ex-WPP-ers, I want to big up the current WPP-ers and imply that WPP won’t collapse once I’ve gone.’
‘Finally! Well why not just say that then! Muppet?’
No-one had more imaginative, intuitive communications professionals at hand to help him out, over 2000,000, but presumably it wasn’t felt necessary, it’s only a bunch of words?
NB. I feel I should point out, in the spirit of full disclosure, that Sir Martin Sorrell has made £495m from the communications business. That is, and I checked my bank balance this morning to make sure I was factually accurate, more than me.