Ice cream man on our block, courtesy of W+K Culture Club

"Ice cream man, upon my street,

I heard your truck outside, it's really neat."

Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers don't work at W+K, but if they did, today they could be singing that song, because on this hot Thursday, our very own ice cream van turned up to relieve us of the heat.

Here's how it works: 1. You pick up your ticket from reception.

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2. You go to the van.

Queue

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3. You experience ice cream joy.

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So who's behind all this goodness? None other than the newly founded W+K Culture Club, who chose this much appreciated stunt to announced its arrival into agency life today with the sweet sound of ice cream van chimes.

This is just the beginning though, with live music events, quizzes, a good dose of dressing up and lots of other surprises in the pipe line, the CC crew plan to add to the already infamous Founders' Day, Summer and Christmas events and see more smiles on WKers' faces all year round.
 
The Culture Club is open to input from all so let us know if you have an amazing idea and if it rocks, we'll make it happen.

home on the ranch

Lou Hake, a freelance producer we always love to work with, shares a fascinating insight into her recent adventures in Colorado ranch life and tells us a bit about an exciting new film project she has in the pipeline. 

In April this year, I left W+K to spend three months filming and photographing life on a ranch in southern Colorado for the Ranchlands Review, an online journal that documents ranch life. I've always been fascinated with the West and wanted to see if my ideas about gun-slinging cowboys and the vast American plains were accurate. Having spent 10 years producing commercials in London, I was also slightly appalled to have never shot anything myself, and so I decided to do something about it.

Running the horses out

I spent the majority of my time on the Chico Basin Ranch, an 87,000 acre working cattle ranch run by a fourth generation ranching family. They run two large-scale ranches in Colorado under the Ranchlands management company with the aim of preserving the delicate ecosystems that exist there and protecting ranching traditions for generations to come.

Raising cattle is still the staple of their business but they have also diversified their offering to ensure its viability with a guest operation, by producing leather goods, hosting a concert series and running an education programme. The Ranchlands Review documents all of this and serves as a window into ranching and a platform on which to create a conversation with the wider community.

Little Duke roping

No two days were the same, but the majority started early to catch the morning light. Sometimes riding out with the crew to help them move the herd into a new pasture – the trot out alone to get to the cattle could be up to two hours. Having not spent much time on a horse or on a horse with a camera, the learning curve was a steep one!

Spending time there really brought to life how ranchers really are the best placed land stewards. Their livelihood is inextricably linked to the preservation of the land and the health and well being of their animals. Having the opportunity to document this has been life-changing in many ways.

Calf and Jake

Whilst there, I started working on a film script written by the filmmaker living there. The film is a modern Western inspired by the location. it tells the story of two men, isolated in the vast landscape, searching for a place to belong.

One of the biggest challenges to get a project off the ground with narrative filmmaking is finding funding, and Lou's team are currently running an Indiegogo campaign to help get them there. Please check out their project page if you want to know out more.

The spoofer, the spoofee and the watchdog

We were particularly excited to wake up this morning to a direct response to our recent #holidayspam campaign for Three.
 
Turns out Virgin Holidays, via M&C Saatchi, have decided to "co-opt the buzz" around our work, according to Marketing Week. "Don't be sorry. #Showoff with pride. You Look Delicious." their billboards state, surrounded by very familiar imagery – hot dog legs, tans and sparking blue water.
 
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To top it off, who else but the Surrey Police have chimed in, adopting the hashtag #BragWhenBack to encourage holidaymakers to keep their homes safe whilst abroad.
 
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Always good to know we're doing a public service. From spoofer to spoofee to watchdog…we can't wait to see where this creative idea goes next.

I know a Handy Little Thing…

A month or so ago, W+Kers and visitors to 16 Hanbury St will have noticed a new addition to our reception, in the humble form of a pin board with some bits of card stuck on it. This is the home of Handy Little Thing – an informal way for W+Kers to share their knowledge with others on a topic they're passionate about. 
 
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We're keeping it lo-fi with an old school noticeboard system of pens, pins and cards. W+Kers, our friends and our clients who have a skill or interest to share fill out a card for the board, and those who are interested can sign up to learn about it. A talk is then arranged, allowing everyone to share their skills, learn some new ones, have some laughs, and maybe even make new friends in the process. 
 
Handy Little Thing is off to a roaring start, with topics such as UX, flower arranging, promoting personal projects, and Catalan culture on offer so far. Nice.
 
The inaugural Handy Little Thing talk kicked off yesterday, with Planning Director Theo, who enlighten us on 'how to be a powerpoint ninja'.
 
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It takes someone with great wit, humour and congeniality to make the MS Office Suite sound even remotely interesting, but as his slides were met with laughter, clapping and sharp intakes of excited breath (we're not even kidding), it became very clear that we were in excellent hands. With his focus on personal presenting style, simplicity, and a generous number of easy technical tricks, we couldn't have asked for a better talk to kick off the project.
 
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Watch this space for regular updates on the handy little things we'll be sharing!HLT Logo Email
 
P.S. Big thanks to WKED for making this happen. 

W+K Forever Curious ‘My Creative Spark’ Exhibition

Monday saw a day of celebration for our Forever Curious project. Following an inspiring series of 'my creative spark' card creation sessions and spark card workshops with pupils from Millfelds and Newport primary schools, we held an exhibition of the work we've been creating together over the past couple of months, at The Rag Factory, just off Brick Lane.
 
The photos that follow were taken by our talented WracK Edit Assistant, Lainey Richardson.
 
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Our buddies and their teachers joined us in the afternoon to check out their very own private view of the exhibition. We all sat down to share our stories of creativity after exploring installations of spark cards, robots and super hero drawings created by the kids and W+Kers, as well as photographs documenting the workshop day. The schools were also treated to a special screening of a short film we created to capture a day bursting with creativity, naturally accompanied by some popcorn to really set the cinema scene. 
 
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At the end of each session, the participating children were given an official certificate celebrating their "sparkiness" and a scrapbook to help keep those creative sparks burning brightly.
 
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We loved having the chance to spend some time with our buddies again and see the exhibition through their eyes. 
 
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The feedback we received from pupils and adults alike was a testament to the incredible thought, energy, care and passion that the Forever Curious team have dedicated in to the project over the past month.
 
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We'll leave you with the delightful manifesto that accompanied the exhibition, crafted by Creative Directors Dan and Ray. 
 
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Fresh Talent in the Office

Over the past couple of weeks, the average age of the W+K office has dropped sharply, due to a series of educational visits from various corners of the world.

We hosted students from the Universities Oklahoma and Delaware and West Herts College, Watford, who stopped by to check out our offices and get a feel for the ins and outs of adland, thanks to presentations by creative Jason & Joris and Mark & Paddy.

To top it all off, our ECDs Tony and Kim gave a talk for the D&AD New Blood festival, allowing soon-to-be ad grads to lap up a little of what life is like here at W+K.

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Students from West Herts with our Vikki and our Guy.

We were delighted to receive a rave review from the University of Watford, who wrote on their ad course blog:

“There were lots of treats at the agency on Friday. Guy Featherstone, self-confessed skate boarding sneaker head and soon to be Head of Design at W&K Portland, treated us all to a talk about his design philosophies. Amazing stuff it was too. Vikki Kottler treated us all to breakfast. […] As always, the W+K experience was truly different, immensely inspiring and hugely enjoyable."

Aw, shucks. The pleasure was ours!

Cut + Run’s The Quarterly: Lurpak Edition

Last night, on the eve of the hottest day so far this year, agency and production house friends of Cut + Run escaped the heat amidst cold fans and delicious pineapple cocktails for the July edition of The Quarterly, an event that brings together and celebrates the talent in the creative industries.
 
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On the agenda this month was our very own work for – and relationship with – Lurpak, which has been recognised in high places recently. In a talk and Q&A hosted by Toby Abbott, MD of Cut + Run, and Jason Stone of David Reviews, Client Christian, AD Katja, and CD Sam, supported by Planning Director Theo, tapped into a Star Trek analogy to explain the creative process behind their latest campaign for Lurpak Cook's Range, Adventure Awaits. From JFK speeches to Ratatouille quotes, their presentation provided a fascinating insight into the client-agency relationship, creative risk-taking, working with Director Dougal Wilson, and what makes the Lurpak brand it is today.
 
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A few of our favourite learnings from the team include:
 
_Put aside received knowledge to seek out alien wisdom.
_Logic can only get you so far – instict makes the difference between what's right and what's brilliant.
_Artifice is the enemy, authenticity pulls the viewer in.
_If it doesn't scare us, we're doing it wrong.
 
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We'd like to warmly thank Toby and the Cut + Run team for their generous hosting, Jason for his perceptive Q&A session, and our wonderful Lurpak client, Christian for coming down to London for the talk.
 
Oh, and the caterers, for those delicious little glasses of Lurpak ice cream on offer around during the evening.
 
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For more photos of the event, check out Cut + Run's Facebook page.

the problem with procurement and how to fix it

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These days, we spend more and more time negotiating terms of business with the Procurement departments of clients and potential clients. These negotiations are more protracted and more contentious than used to be the case in my experience.

Increasingly, Marketing is disconnected from conversations about terms of business and Procurement seeks to impose standard terms across all suppliers and to bring any agency that seeks different terms into line. A prevalent approach is simply to say that these terms are ‘company policy’ and not open to negotiation. This can lead to discussions lasting for months, often long after work has started, or even finished.

This is no doubt part of the reason why the IPA and ISBA have been meeting recently (at The Performance Adaptathon) to discuss whether and how to remunerate agencies for value creation. As observed by Claire Beale in Campaign, “Let’s hope that, while they’re at it, they make a fresh stab at positioning marketing as an investment rather than a cost.”

This the heart of the issue – not just positioning marketing as an investment, but agreeing remuneration terms that are based on that principle.

How to avoid the Marketing Procurement dilemma

In the interests of understanding both sides of the debate, this week I have been reading ‘Buying less for less. How to avoid the Marketing Procurement dilemma’ by Gerry Preece and Russel Wohlwerth.

Amazon says:

Authored by Gerry Preece, ex-head of marketing procurement for the world’s largest advertiser and by Russel Wohlwerth, an ex-agency executive who is now one of the industry’s most respected consultants, this book hits the “marketing procurement dilemma” head on. Preece and Wohlwerth deliver a punchy, concise, clear-minded assessment of the problem and offer straightforward solutions. If you’re an agency leader, a CMO, or a brand marketer, this book will empower you to influence how procurement approaches the space, thus enabling you to deliver better marketing work. And if you’re a Chief Procurement Officer or a marketing procurement professional, you’ll discover a powerful road map that will maximize your bottom line performance and results.

One of the Amazon reviewers commented, “If there was a "beach read" for Procurement within the marketing space, this would be it.” So I took the book on holiday with me and can now offer you this summary to help you decide whether it’s your sort of a beach read or not.

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(Good news: it's a much slimmer volume than Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and much easier to read than Edmund Gosse’s Father And Son, my other summer 2014 ‘beach read’ selections.)

The background to the current situation, say the authors, is Procurement’s success in the 1980s and 1990s in buying marketing materials like printed materials. They were able to deliver measurable savings. So, over time, Procurement began to get involved with other marketing spend areas: telemarketing services, mailing lists and, bit by bit, Procurement started to deal with agencies, and areas in which not all value arrived in the form of price. This is where conflict started to develop. Marketers accused Procurement of failing to understand marketing and undermining creative relationships, Procurement accused marketers of feeling threatened by their superior buying skills, and accused agencies of fearing accountability. Agencies accused Procurement of heavy-handed fee-slashing that made it hard to do the job properly and profitably.

Well, yes, that does all sound pretty familiar.

Cutting agency costs may reduce the value of the services being purchased

But, say the authors, these complaints about procurement not understanding marketing and agencies being overpaid and complacent are not getting to the root of the problem, which is this:

“Marketing dollars are limited. They are finite. There is a broad, universal need for every CMO to become increasingly efficient with the limited resources that are available, and that translates into an undending pressure to do more with less. The real problem is that we have to increase marketing ROI.”

This, I think, is the “marketing procurement dilemma” referred to in the book’s title: the problem caused when Procurement wants to buy more marketing services for less, but – because they’re focusing on price, not ROI – they end up getting less for less. Because, if agencies are forced to cut costs, they can do so, but the ways in which they do so will affect the value delivered – putting cheaper, less experienced people on the client’s business, spending less time thinking about strategy, cutting creative development time, presenting fewer options, attending fewer research groups, reducing the number of face-to-face meetings, etc. In this ‘less for less’ scenario everyone loses.

Why marketing is different

The reason for the dilemma is that marketing is different from the other goods and services purchased by Procurement. The authors cite several reasons for this. They include:

– Marketing is an investment not a cost. (Nothing is easier than cutting marketing costs – if you don't believe it’s adding value, just stop spending.) Nobody makes an investment decision based solely on price. (Who buys a share in Microsoft because it’s cheaper than a share in Coca-Cola?) Marketing Procurement should not be about minimising costs, it should be about maximising the value of the investment.

– Specifications are fluid and quality is variable. £1m worth of campaign A is not worth the same as £1m worth of campaign B.

– Because of this variation in quality, the consequences of choosing one apparently comparable proposal over another may be substantial. Good marketing can drive significant uplifts in profits. Bad marketing can lead to a decline in profits.

– Agency differentiation lies in people and processes, not equipment and technology. Obviously, it’s hard to benchmark the talent of one agency against that of another.

– Measuring Procurement performance in marketing is imperfect and complicated. If you’re buying materials, you can quantify volume, quality and cost paid and benchmark this against what was spent before. But in marketing, specifications are hard to quantify and no two proposals are of the same value, so cost saving alone is not a relevant metric.

How do you get more for less?

Okay, marketing is different. Now, how do you get more for less?

Preece and Russel Wohlwerth suggest that this can be done by following four principles. On your Procurement team you need:

1. people with the right mindset (maximisation of value, not cost-cutting)

2. measured by the right metrics (value-add, not savings. Marketing and Marketing Procurement should be tasked with the same metrics.)

3. applying the right skills (strategic sourcing and good interpersonal, trust-building skills)

4. in the right assignments (long-term, ongoing assignments that enable people to learn the area and build trust)

Some companies do employ procurement people who fit this description, and we’ve been lucky to work with them. But not all do.

Putting this into practice

The book suggests four steps when sitting down with Chief Procurement Officer / financial decision-maker:

1. Confirm mutual understanding that marketing is a good investment

2. Explain in detail why marketing is different (as seen above)

3. Describe the implications (right mindset, metrics, skills and assignments)

4. get agreement and get going

Sounds simple. And the book is definitely a concise, clear and well-argued case for the basics of how to solve ‘the dilemma’, which makes it a useful beach read, but a less entertaining one than ‘The Goldfinch’.

The lesson for agencies is that we need more than ever to be focused on accountability for what we do, so that we can prove the value we are providing. We must do this in close partnership with client marketers, who share our interest in accountability. Without this, the debate will only ever be about cost.

funny lines and dangerous angles

A few months ago, shortly after a certain Guardian article was published, our planner Oscar just couldn't resist the call of the music industry any longer and bid adieu to W+K to focus on his music. 

And he's only gone and done it, too.

These days, Oscar can be found producing music under the name Powell, DJing at various ear-bleedingly loud club nights, and he also runs the Diagonal record label with his mate, Jaime Williams. 

Music site Juno recently posted an in-depth interview with Oscar, Guy and Jamie about Diagonal, where they talk about the, er, subtle art of collaboration, publishing on vinyl versus digital downloads and what the future holds for the label. Oh and a little bit about the enduring appeal of ironic merch.

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 Apart from making the odd branded glowstick here and there, Diagonal releases music by a diverse list of artists including Death Comet Crew, Russell Haswell and Bronze Teeth (music geeks, geek out – it's a project from Factory Floor's Dominic Butler).

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Diagonal's beautifully minimalistic record sleeves are designed by our very own head of craft (and all round design legend) Guy Featherstone, and they really are something to behold. Here are a few of them:

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[Powell 'Club Music']

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[Bronze Teeth 'Unilaterals']

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[Russell Haswell — 37 minute workout]

Keep an eye on Diagonal's Twitter for news of upcoming releases and gigs. And if you want more Powell in your life, you can tune in to NTS radio to hear Oscar's show Melon Magic on Friday nights from 11pm-1am. 

Blockaid: The Future as it Happened

A little while ago, Wired invited us to contribute to a special section they were running featuring thoughts and letters from ten years into the future, 2024, alongside contributions from writers like Cory Doctorow and Margaret Atwood.

Wired CoverWired’s introduction to the feature foreshadows the death of print: “It’s hard to believe, but back in 2014 people still read paper magazines. As an exercise in nostalgia, we asked some of our favourite writers, artists and photographers to convey 2024 news in ‘the format we used to love'."IntroOur Creative Directors, Dan Norris and Ray Shaughnessy and Head of Emerging Platforms, Luke Tipping came up with the idea for an ad that promotes real-life ad blocking retinal technology, which replaces OOH advertising with images a user wants to see.Block AidWe highly recommend getting your hands on the July copy of Wired for this fascinating speculation on the future of advertising and tech.

Keep watching this space!