Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Really Creative Creative Directors Club declares war

The other evening, I called an emergency meeting of the Really Creative Creative Directors Club of Singapore, requesting that, as I had a very urgent matter to discuss, everyone should do their very best to attend unless they forgot, had something better to do or, at the last minute, just couldn't be bothered. No other excuses, I stressed, would be even remotely acceptable. It's important. There's a war going on and somehow, some way, we have to win it.

Well, the first to arrive was Mr. Gordon, who asked, as you might: 'What war?'

'A battle-of-the-departments type war,' I replied, adding: 'One of those wars that begins with a niggle, escalates, and can absolutely destroy a working relationship.'

'By "niggle",' queried Mr. Gordon, 'do you mean realising you hate each other, should never be working together in the first place and wishing they were dead? Will there be tips on undetectable poisons and tampering with their car brakes?'

I said: 'Honestly, Mr. Gordon, we did that last week. Didn't you attend?'

He said not. He meant to, he said, but on that day he put his back out and then his left leg fell off - 'in Brewerkz, can you imagine! But they did carry it out to the bike for me.’

I got a bit cross about this, I admit. 'Mr. Gordon,' I said. 'Unless you forgot, you had something better to do or, at the last minute, simply could not be bothered, I don't want to hear it. I won't be fobbed off with such feeble reasons for not attending.'

He rejoined with: 'Oh, and I couldn't be bothered.'

I said: 'That was better. Thank you, Mr. Gordon. That will be all. You may hop to your seat now.'

And so, as the others had arrived, the meeting could begin. 'Ladies and Gentlemen,' I said, 'this spring, what has preoccupied you for much of the time? Has it been timesheets?'

'No,' everyone cried. 'Has it been cost estimates?' 'No,' everyone cried. 'Has it been forecasting revenue and working out the next quarter’s budget?'

'Get a life!' everyone cried. 'Has it been leaving things at the bottom of your in-tray to do later and then never doing them?' 'Yes, yes, yes!' everyone cried. 'OK, apart from leaving things at the bottom of the in-tray to do later but never doing them, have you also been writing and art directing stuff?'

'Well, yes, a bit!' everyone cried. I said: 'Ladies and Gentlemen, if this war - and it is war, not a game - in your office is anything like the one in mine, I'm guessing it goes like this, and always goes like this:

1) You, who occasionally make a stab at work, put down the gin and Hello! and write an ad, using a comma in the headline
2) A person of a suity nature then takes it out
3) You put it back in
4) They take it back out
5) In
6) Out
7) In
8) Out
9) In
10) Out

'And so on, until the very end of time itself. And is it any fun, Ladies and Gentlemen? Is it amusing in any way? No. Plus, if I'm guessing right, and I think I am, it can get dirty. Very dirty.

'On occasion, you may even meet in the studio while one is in-ing and the other is out-ing. This, of course, can result in a fist fight, so, if you want my advice, always come prepared with, for example, a Doberman and a scalpel. Alternatively, broken bottles, knuckledusters and old D&AD annuals are suitable.'

'Yippee,' exclaimed Ms Dickinson. 'Good show!'

I pressed on: 'Further, you must be alert to cheating at all times. They may, for example, not take it out after you have put it back in, which you may think means you have won.'

'Does that mean we can't use the broken bottles, knuckledusters or old D&AD annuals?' interrupted Mr. Tan.

'No way,' I said, 'because, what you will discover, is that they have left the comma in the headline but THEY HAVE GONE AND TAKEN EACH AND EVERY APOSTROPHE OUT!'

'The creep,' yelled the other Mr. Tan. 'The sneaky little creep! Let me at them with the scalpel!'

'You may, of course, choose to go the non-violent route and give them the facts,' I said. 'You may tell them to read Fowler, you may then wish to conclude with: "It's a grammatical fact, matey. Get over it. The comma is in and the apostrophes stay."

'But will they accept this? No, Ladies and Gentlemen, they will not.’

I finished on a heartfelt plea to the meeting: 'Revered Members, how are we to win this war?'

'Undetectable poisons and tampering with their car brakes?' suggested Mr. Gordon, 'or even detectable poisons, what the hell?'

We considered Mr. Gordon's suggestion, and discussed whether we thought he might be being a bit hasty, but then concluded: no.

It's the only way. It's not nice, we accept, but this is war. And this is what can happen when you play havoc with a person’s punctuation.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Clio Executive Jury Chair Roundtable

Arrived in Albuquerque after a 24-hour flight. It was 12.30 in the morning and about 3-5 degrees when I reached Bishop’s Lodge Resort & Spa. This place began as a private retreat for the city's first archbishop.

Brrrr… isn’t Santa Fe supposed to be warm this time of the year?

Piñon Lodge #191: This was the lodge where I stayed. It was named for all the Piñon trees that cover the expanse of The Bishop’s Lodge property and much of Northern New Mexico. Each lodge invokes the spirit of the Southwest with its atmosphere of earthen palettes, richly textured Navajo rugs, and glowing stone fireplaces. Nice.

The next morning, I woke up and realized what a beautiful place it was. I had a tough time breathing after walking a few steps because this lodge was located at 7,300 feet above sea level.

Beautiful Wind Sculptures like this one called Bean Poles, made of copper and stainless steel, were scattered all over town and in Bishop’s lodge.

Met up with Tony Gulisano, the newly appointed MD who’s been with the organization for over 25 years. We touched on the Clio’s judging format. For a guy I’ve never met, we spoke like old friends and his experience in the industry humbled me. His enthusiasm for the show and respect for the people who did the work impressed me immensely. “It’s all about the work!” he kept repeating.

Judging began on March 31 straight after breakfast.
My welcome speech went something like this:
“Decisions, decisions, decisions.
Is it in? Or out? It is a Gold, Silver or Bronze?
We’ll be making thousands over the coming week.
So how do we decide what to look for?
I’m not going to tell you as most of you have been judging in more international shows than I have.

We’re not only the judges of the show but the editors of the Clio book.
Would you pick anything that shouldn’t be there?
Will you be proud of it once it’s published and millions of creatives read it?

You decide. Thank you.”

Cienega lodges were converted into judging rooms. They are named for the wetlands located directly behind it. We sat on comfortable sofas staring at huge plasma screens and 30-inch Apple cinema HD display.

First round
15 judges were divided into 3 groups. And each group saw one third of the work submitted. Preliminary voting was simply a process of punching “in” or “out” in our PDAs. 3 votes move the pieces into the second round, and this process alone eliminated about 80-85% of the entries.

Print was judged the old fashioned way. Proofs on the table. Refreshing to finally read the copy, as we didn’t get to see it clearly on the computer screens before.

Second round
Most of the pieces that I liked made it to the second round. This time, the entire jury member would assemble to vote on the shortlist. Judges were required to vote on each piece from a scale of one to ten. Once the scores were tabulated, each piece provided was provided a point of reference to begin statue discussion. Sometimes, a high scoring piece would not even make it to the shortlist after statue discussion. This is the difference between silent voting and voting after a group discussion.

Just before statue discussion, everyone walked around the ballroom to see if they wanted to bring something back as a wildcard.

After the second round, each jury was allowed to recall only one piece of work to reconsider if it should be added to the shortlist. Interestingly, not that many pieces were brought back from the dead. Some that did went on to win heavy metal.

The judges getting ready to cast the next vote. Is it a Gold?

Statue discussion
Now that the “easy” part was over, we went on to the most important section. Who’s going to get the statues? To break the ice, we started with the student category. And even then, I felt some tension, which was actually a healthy thing to have. I made sure everyone had a point to make, and that all their views heard. No matter what argument they made, at the end of the day, their hands did all the talking. A majority vote determined if a piece deserved a statue.

After completing one category, we could easily see the tabulated votes. This helped Jury members to continue discussions without losing any time. The organizers at Clio really did a marvelous job in creating a very efficient system.

The whole Clio jury right after the judging was complete. Hurray!!!
One week together and not a single catfight.

From left, Icaro Doria,creative director,Saatchi & Saatchi New York,
Jonathan Kneebone, founder/creative director, The Glue Society.
Doerte Spengler-Aherns, creative director, Jung von Matt-Basis Gmbh, Satoshi Takamatsu, executive creative director,Ground LLC
Tokyo, Japan, Lotta Lundgren,copywriter,Åkestam Holst,Stockholm,
Yours truly, Julian Watt, executive creative director, Net#work BBDO
Johannesburg, Jason Schragger,creative director,Strawberry Frog
Amsterdam, Christina Yu,vice president/creative director,Lowe Roche,Toronto, Rodrigo Almeida,creative director,Almap BBDO

Saõ Paulo, Sebastian Arrechedera, vice president/general creative director, DDB Mexico City, Gustavo Reyes, general creative director
Euro RSCG, Buenos Aires, Eugene Cheong,regional head of copy
Ogilvy & Mather Singapore and Sylvain Thirache, executive creative director, DDB Paris.

When I started the process, I was apprehensive about how to deal with creative egos from around the world. But when the judging ended, a day earlier than expected, everyone left with a deeper understanding of each other’s cultures and beliefs. Because of where this took place, in the mountains, it really felt more like a creative retreat than a global judging event.

The Asian Judges from Print/Poster and TV/Cinema. Juries from several categories gathered outside the lawn at the Bishop’s Lodge for drinks and some finger food. Yum.

From left:
Yours truly, Josy Paul, JWT Mumbai, Tony Gulisano, Jureeporn Thaidumrong,JEH United, Ltd., Eugene Cheong, O&M Singapore and Eddie Booth, Leo Burnett HK.

Jonathan Kneebone, saying grace before a meal at the El Farol restaurant. It combines classic taste of Spain, Santa Fe and Mexico with a unique blend of art, dance and aroma. New York Times rated this place one of the best bars on Earth in 2005.

On May 9th, I will be flying off to South Beach, Miami for the annual Clio Festival. Not only will I be presenting the statues to the winners, I will be joining a panel of other jury chairman in the Jury Chairs Roundtable. On stage, we’ll engage in a free-form discussion of the year’s creative work.

Andrew Keller (Vice President/Executive Creative Director, Crispin Porter + Bogusky) who chaired Content and Contact, and Mark Tutssel (Worldwide Chief Creative Officer Leo Burnett Worldwide, USA) who chaired Television and Cinema, will be among the panel of 5 chairmen who will candidly share what happened inside the judging room.

Results of the winners will be announced in the Awards Gala at the Jackie Gleason Theater from May 10-12th.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Introducing the Really Creative Creative Director

Now, I know what you are all asking yourselves: what is a Really Creative Creative Director, and how can I become one? Well, it isn't that easy, you know.

We do have the most exacting low standards and will not accept just anybody. We recently, for example, had to reject Neil French on the grounds that he firmly believes you just can't have too much copy. "Neil," we had to tell him, "just go away."

Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind and sometimes you have to be cruel to be cruel, just for the sheer fun of it.

Anyway, first off, you really must join the Really Creative Creative Directors Club of Singapore. This is the largest organisation in Asia-Pacific for all those who have not only failed to enthuse convincingly - or even half-heartedly – about long copy and exquisite art direction, but also, probably, have very old job bags propping up their wobbly desks.

The Club, founded at some time or other but no one can say when exactly as we forgot to do a timing plan - oops - operates under the slogan: 'Nature abhors a vacuum and so do we, so what’s the point of suits?'

Minutes from the last AGM are, naturally, available on request, but only after they have been lost, found, lost, found, lost and then found again at the bottom of the filing cabinet under the small brown furry thing that may once have been a plum but then again could equally be one of those ridiculous furry decorations for the top of a pencil. Who is to tell?

Obviously the Club expects members to uphold the extremely low standards at all times. Anyone nearly up-to-date with their timesheets will have to explain themselves in full, while anyone totally up-to-date will be automatically expelled.

Anyone who hasn't touched a timesheet in years will be awarded free life membership, naturally.

Ditto anyone who puts a client’s photo in an ad, both when pressed for time and when not, and who dresses for a presentation by turning their T-shirt over to its 'fresh' side.

The Club has this to say about briefs: file, file, file, then throw away when nobody is looking.

We also suggest never questioning the fact there is an Action Man in your stationery drawer, as well as an indecent plastic swizzle stick, some small change (amounting to 87 cents), a book on houseplants and three Fox's Glacier Fruits. To question can only lead to madness.

The Club has this to say about memos: put aside for further perusal, then throw away when nobody is looking.

The Club suggests never, ever, going right to the bottom of the in-tray, as anything could be living down there. In fact, we fully endorse looking at the in-tray, sighing dispiritedly, and looking away again.

We expect all members to have all of the following items at the back of at least one office cupboard: a corkscrew; an ancient pot of dried up pens; a spilling box of decade old paperclips; and several bottles of wine (all red).

Also; any number of exotic herbal teas with tempting names like Mango Carnival and Tropical Fiesta but which no one drinks because they taste of pond; and sticky jars of stuff that can no longer be identified and have bits of moth wing stuck to their sides.

The Club has this to say about rejected concepts: decant carefully into job bag, place in desk, leave for a week, then throw out when nobody is looking. Alternatively, place in archive, leave for a decade, then throw out when nobody is looking.

Never throw away today anything that you can keep and then throw away at a later date. We will be very disappointed in anyone who does otherwise.

On the whole, we do not advise leaving suits to do the creative work, as it will only mean having to do it again, but we do accept such things can happen. We also accept such things can happen quite a lot.

We strongly advise never turning up for a briefing on time, as the shock can lead to diarrhoea and vomiting in Account Executives.

Should a concept be binned in an internal WIP, it is important to blow on it a bit and change the background colour before re-presenting, preferably when nobody is looking. It is perfectly acceptable to start something and not finish it, unless it is a bottle of gin.

The Club also has this to say to anyone who is about 19 years behind with their timesheets: gather them all up and throw them away while nobody is looking.

Alternatively, you can flush them down the loo, along with the office goldfish whose bowl was used as an ashtray but died of natural causes all the same.

I do hope you have enjoyed this short introduction to the Really Creative Creative Directors Club of Singapore. Membership rates are reasonable. Simply send a cheque, which we will either lose or spill coffee on or the art directors will draw all over, and which will therefore never be cashed. You can't get more reasonable than that.

Once a member, we hope you will defend the Really Creative Creative Director ethos or whatever we eventually decide to call it.

Some people say that the trouble with Really Creative Creative Directors is that they are lazy and just sit around all day reading Hello! and catching up on Corrie on the internet, whereas nothing could be further from the truth.

Really Creative Creative Directors work really, really hard. It's just that so much of what they do happens when nobody is looking...

Henry Adams
Creative Director
Rapp Collins (Singapore)

Henry's desk which she says explains "everything".

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Tell Me It Isn’t So!

I have recently been seeking angel investment for a newly-developed business portal, and a comment by a potential investor has stopped me in my tracks.

He advised that positioning my new business as a Singapore-based dot-com might be a disadvantage and suggested that we might get greater awareness and support from local Singaporeans if we were to launch our portal overseas. .

Please tell me this is not true!

In my career, I have worked in many countries and chose to return to Singapore to realise my vision, believing that we Singaporeans would support fellow entrepreneurs, judging achievements on their own merits and not devalue them just because they are home grown.

We have the support of the Economic Development Board under the Innovation Commercialisation Scheme for the development of our proof-of-concept. We have recently launched our portal and are hoping to gain support from fellow Singaporean business professionals. Are we going to be disappointed?

Our mission is to help small businesses, entrepreneurs and independent professionals to be more efficient in their marketing and business development efforts through online capabilities. We aim to empower them by making technology accessible and easy to use. To further show our commitment and support, we make most of our services free of charge.

Although I truly believe we will be successful, I want and need to know that I will get the support from my homeland. Deep down, I want to do us all proud.

Please tell me that the advice I heard from the investor is not true!

Jesse Ting