What is an influencer??

November 16, 2010

Really nice short video with gorgeous soundtrack set in New York. Subject: influencers.



Happy New Year

September 19, 2010

Happy New Year.

September kind of is the real new year anyway.  Resolutions?  We certainly don’t need sunscreen, so I’d just say, don’t do interviews when you’re hungover, still drunk, bunged up or any combination thereof.

I was reading through the IMJ Annual Agency issue the other day and I thought I’d do a blogpost of my own predictions for the year.  A kind of unasked-for rallying call for the 12 months to come.  I thought I’d flick through the pieces written by agency bosses, and give my own take.  But holy hell – I’ve just flicked through the issue again – there were about 65 of them!  Where did they all come from?  Disappointingly, they’re all well written, articulate and reasonably coherent.  Don’t know what to add to that.  Except that maybe in a blogpost, I can be a bit less corporate, and a bit more personal. 

We were all flat out busy in the boom, we’re all flat out busy in the bust.  We worked harder than ever trying to catch up with our billings and now we’re working harder than ever to hold on to them.  What have I learned?  You’d better like what you’re doing, be passionate about it, enjoy it or move on.  Aidan Greene talked about the ‘curse of interesting times’ – bloody right.  Ciaran Cunningham said ‘it’s about the people, stupid’ – doubly right.

We don’t live in hard times.  I read Orwells Road To Wigan Pier recently.  Them was tough times.  Miners worked 12 hour shifts on their hands and knees, like underground chain gangs, suffering respiratory illnesses, all sorts of cancers, not to mention shaft collapses and zero workers rights.  Back when Unions meant something, they were the injustices they fought against.

We’ve just gone from being fabulously wealthy, to slightly less fabulously wealthy.  The only thing that matters right now is de-coupling bank debt from our national (and therefore personal) debt.  Hungover interviews are a trivial distraction.  Every single business, whether it be service oriented (like advertising) or otherwise, will sink or swim on the resolution of our debt crisis.  Remember the thick, luxurious property-porn newspaper supplements of the noughties?  When propertypapers came with a news supplement?  Well this is the era of debt-porn.  Remember we used to talk in millions?  Not anymore – a billion is the new million.

I spent some time yesterday in the company of someone who enjoys what he does, is passionate about it and is therefore, of course, brilliant at it.  Colin Harmon is a world Barista champion and has set up his own cafe in Dublin where he does coffee appreciation classes.  If we all cared this much about our own work, invested as much of ourselves into it, we’d be fantastically well rewarded, whatever the billings.

I hope you like what you’re doing. 

Happy new year.

John Clancy.

The Thin White Duke

September 7, 2010

I’ve never really got David Bowie. I know that to many that’s a sacrilegious thing to say but it’s true. I think he kind of freaked me out when I was younger and I’ve struggled to forgive him for that, never warming to him since. I’ve been threatening to open my mind to him (well at least listen to a bit of his music) for a few years now. I sat beside Tom Dunne, ( now Newstalk host, then Today FM DJ, ex Something Happens front man, general music aficionado, and possibly David Bowie’s number one Irish fan), on a flight once. He basically advised me of the error of my ways. And ever since Bowie has been on my cultural to do list, low enough not to actually inspire any action, high enough to remain on the list and to line up beside others such as twice yearly visits to the Gate (partial success), read Ulysses (less successful), frequent the Fringe Festival (partial success) and discover wine and practise new found skills (phenomenal success, but still room for improvement).

With Bowie residing in the back of my sub conscious, I read Paul Morley’s article on him at the weekend. Beyond helping me shortlist the Bowie albums I need to download to broaden my knowledge, I was fascinated by learning a bit more about Bowie’s chameleon like passage through his art over his career. He went through different personas like most us go through hot dinners. And in a funny way it was as fundamentally important to Bowie as hot diners are to the rest of us. Survival at the top of his art was what was at stake. Bono once described it that U2 (another band that has reinvented themselves more than once) were re-applying for the job as the best band in the world. Springsteen does something similar. His trips to Dublin over the last decade have ranged from solo acoustic sets to the full on E Steet Band Experience with The Seeger sessions in between. Each concert was completely different, all stunningly brilliant, and most importantly all fresh, ensuring that old fans remain loyal while picking up new fans on the way.  Staying at the top of the music business for a sustained period of time demands it.

In the advertising world, we come across this challenge all the time. Tempting as it may be to rest on our laurels of past glories, be it new business wins or a successful campaign, you’ll soon find yourself more of a Zager and Evans than a Ziggy Stardust and Spiders from Mars if you know what I mean. It annoys me when a sales rep rings us up and asks us where the ad that we booked last year is. The world continues to change, consumers evolve, brands evolve, and new younger fresher botox free iPad wielding folks are knocking on our door every day. Sometimes last year’s plan is the right solution but more often than not it’s not. The Thin White Duke would certainly agree.


Music and Life Goes On

August 27, 2010

A year or so ago, a colleague of ours, typed in ‘inspirational video’ into the search bar on YouTube and came upon the Alan Watts animation ‘Music and Life’. Every person who was in the room at the time when he presented it back to us was moved.

The video has a simple enough theme: all too often in life we think about the end point. We think about moving on, moving up, getting married, buying a house, getting to the top of our careers, buying our dream car. But while we are working to get to this imagined euphoric place of ‘having it all’, we forget about the in-between time.

(I’m as guilty as the next person of thinking like this.)

Neasa, our regular influentials blogger reminded us of this video again today when she said a few words of goodbye before she headed off to a new life in London Town. Life is about the friends you make, the fun you have along the way and not about the moving onwards and upwards, the numbers of ‘A’s you have on your CV etc.  In many ways the ‘Neasa effect’ could be compared to the video: Inspirational, colourful and motivating and we will miss her greatly in OMD.

The show must go on though…but with winter palpable, and another birthday just gone, I will have to keep reminding myself of this Alan Watts video over the coming months. A Chinese proverb puts it well: the journey is the reward.


I’ve been thinking about inspiration of late, inspired myself by the following paragraph that Harry Eyres recently wrote:

‘Artists, and others, are reluctant nowadays to talk about inspiration. It sounds highfalutin and vague, like some mysterious essence which floats above the earth. But inspiration in its deepest sense, far from being vague or abstract, is very intimate, physical and personal. There is nothing more intimate, physical and personal than breathing, or breathing in, which is the literal meaning of inspiration. An inspiring place is one that lets you breathe.’

There are some obvious places and platforms for inspiration. The world of TED.com is a favoured destination. We frequently refer to the brand that is Jamie Oliver and his TED talk is rightly filed under the heading of inspiring. As is Matt Ridley’s piece on ‘When ideas have sex’ – definitely worth a watch over a lunchtime sandwich.

At OMD we start our week with our Ignition 5, where Vanessa and co inspire us with some cool things they’ve seen from around the world. This week’s post, shared on this blog, includes washing powder with in-built GPS tracking – an idea that could certainly be ‘borrowed with pride’ in other categories.

I think Harry is right when he refers to the personal nature of inspiration but paradoxically we in the communications business try and create that intimate relationship on a mass scale. This is probably easier to achieve than it sounds. I had the great pleasure of seeing Leonard Cohen play at Lissadell House recently watching the sun set behind Benbulben listening to his ‘gift of a golden voice’. A personal moment for me, sure, but one I shared with 10,000 others. Brands can behave in the same way and at an obvious level the development of social communities as part of marketing programmes and brand experiences is a sign of this. One of our favourites here is the Irish Blood Transfusion Service donor community on facebook.

A few of us are reading Paul Arden’s book ‘It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be.’ He finishes with a few quotes which can be inspiring in themselves. A little scary perhaps as when Grand Prix driver Mario Andretti states ‘If everything seems under control you’re not going fast enough’!

If all else fails, maybe we should follow the inspirational words of Dr Scholl: ‘Early to bed. Early to rise. Work like hell and advertise.’


There is a concept which I term “The Irish College Phenomenon” which was a very common experience amongst my peers at the time.

For the first week of Irish College, everybody vehemently hated it there and everybody wanted to go home. As we moved into week two, we became accustomed to the regime, the food, the bunk beds, though we still constantly complained and we still wanted to go home. By the final week, miraculously, things would start to change. At this stage, the boys and girls had started to integrate at the evening Ceili, most people had made friends and generally everyone was having fun. In fact, we usually left Irish College on an emotional high, to the point that in the weeks afterwards, back in Dublin, we would pine for our Irish college experience and hold “reunions” in McDonalds on Grafton Street, to recapture the good times.

The fact that we had been miserable for the majority of our time there, was completely overpowered by the highs of the last few days. There was a marked difference between what we had actually experienced during those three weeks, and the memory which remained afterwards. This is the difference, according to Daniel Kahnmen (who founded the field of Behavioural Economics), between the experiencing self and the remembering self.

Many of the things we do in our lives are in service of this remembering self. Kahneman gave a fascinating talk on this distinction at the 2010 TED conference which is well worth a watch. We chase exotic holidays, interesting leisure pursuits, a rich and varied lifestyle – not because we actually have higher levels of enjoyment while we are doing these things (in reality, we don’t seem to enjoy them that much more than sitting in front of the TV). But we do remember them more positively, we like the story they create, and they lead us to think back on our lives with more satisfaction.

This insight has pretty powerful marketing implications, especially in terms of brand experiences.

Will what people remember about their experience with your brand or product, be the same as what they actually experienced?

How can we avoid the tricky little pitfalls, which will disproportionately taint a lifetime of good brand behaviour?

And most crucially, what can we do to create a brand experience story, which goes further than the actual product experience had?


Yellow Box

March 30, 2010

Driving home yesterday evening, I stopped the right side of a yellow box which allowed another driver to turn right and join the traffic queue.  But as I noticed the driver struggle to straighten his car in the small space of the yellow box that lay ahead of him, whilst behind him there was acres of space, it struck me that the yellow box is incorrectly placed.  At such a junction, the box should be placed further forward to allow cars to join traffic easier and without causing a further obstruction to cars going the other way.  As I continued my route home, I noticed that every yellow box was the same.  Where am I going with this I hear you ask?  Well, if given the chance, I’d love to share my observation with someone who could actually do something about this, or at least hear from them why they designed them that way.  There might be a perfectly logical engineering reason behind it that I haven’t thought of.  But there’s no such opportunity to do so, well easily anyway.  I’m not the kind of person to write letters to my local politician / counsellor etc, I don’t feel that passionately about most issues.

In this day and age of consumer power, why haven’t the people who run our country tapped into this huge opportunity?  Don’t they care what we have to say?  Would we use it in a constructive manner or just abuse it?  Either way, I think they should at least try.  If my government had a forum where I could visit and tell him that the entrance to our estate has potholes, or the sequence of traffic lights at some junctions is awful, then that would be a brilliant brand experience for me, probably the first when it comes to politics.  We’ve got Your Country Your Call, a brilliant initiative by Áras an Uachtaráin, to get the country back to its best.  But what about what’s already there?  Who do we call on for that?  Who’s there to listen to our suggestions, our problems and our solutions?

Upon discussing this with Claire, she pointed me in the direction of http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/7484600/Every-citizen-to-have-personal-webpage.html

Turns out Gordon Brown is thinking along the same lines as me, I’m going to take that as a good thing.


There are some lucky minds among us, who can scan a spreadsheet and immediately pick out a meaningful pattern from the data dump. Most of us aren’t so lucky. And so, we’ve developed some techniques, to hep us visualise what those numbers might be saying – the pie chart and the bar chart are two of our closest friends in the world of media.

The pie chart and the bar chart might have packed a punch in their time – when research was a new and heady invention for our industry. Those were the days before we had monthly brand trackers, quarterly review phone books and surveys so long, that no one ever gets through a genuine analysis of all the results, before it’s out of date.

Media, arguably more that most other marketing disciplines, is drowning in information saturation. We are data rich but insight poor.

However, we are now on the precipice of Data 2.0, where increasingly the days of our good old friends, the pie chart and the bar chart, may soon be numbered. There are people out there, on our own shores, championing the “art of visualisation”. I just became acquainted with Ed Fidgeon-Kavanagh this week (via Piaras Kelly).

On our part in OMD, we are fighting the good fight, winning some battles, losing others but always trying to put an emphasis on useful meaning over a deck of charts, storytelling over powerpoint death, and insight over information.


Jingle All The Way

December 8, 2009

Jingle All The Way

Ah Christmas, a time for partying with friends, buying gifts for your nearest and dearest, quality time with family, visiting long lost relations, mulled wine, fairy lights, last minute shopping, turkey and trifle.  And for advertisers, the quest for infamous cut through during the busiest advertising and shopping time of year.  Everyone wants a slice of the Christmas shopping frenzy and as a result, we as consumers are bombarded with messages from all angles.  For me however, there are a number of ads that I just love seeing at this time of year.  By this time of year, I mean December, like Vanessa, I applaud brands that wait till December to run their Christmas ads.

I know its Christmas when I see a truck decked out in lights rolling into town, Christmas wishes from the home of the black stuff, a snowman flying through the sky and a mother turning on the electric blanket for the return of her prodigal son.

If I must elaborate, my all time favourite Christmas ads are Coca-Cola, Guinness, An Post and ESB.  Even now, I’m humming the tune to each of these ads.  And there it is, that’s what does it for me about all those ads.  Yes, the imagery is amazing, I’d absolutely love for the Coca-Cola truck to visit Caltra, a white Christmas would be magical etc, but it’s the music in those ads that gets me every time.  Even though I see most of these ads every year, some slightly updated, some in their original form, I’ll never get sick of seeing them.  As soon as I see or hear these iconic ads, I get a happy glowy Christmassy feeling inside.  I look forward to driving home on Christmas Eve and seeing our Christmas tree lights for the first time and knowing that the ham will be boiling for hours on the stove.  Even though these ads are obviously about a brand and commercialism ultimately, for me, they actually make me remember what Christmas is all about.  And to the people in ESB, I implore you to resurrect this ad!


That’s So True

November 14, 2009

The new Boots Christmas Ad parodies the Christmas lunch with a healthy dollop of the anthemic “Here come the girls” soundtrack from last year.

boots 2 jpeg

I love all the recent Boots Ads. They’re strongly driven by consumer insight, in a way that also manages to be highly product focused. The type of insights that Boots tap into, mainly highlighting obvious gender differences in common rituals, I think illustrates something really important about what an “insight” actually is.

Some people can get very hung up on the idea that insights have to be “new” to be a real insight. Often that means we as agency strategists, end up struggling to come up with “undiscovered” information on a brand, category or consumer base, when the reality is that our clients are already very aware of the finer dynamics of their business.

Alternatively, we do sometimes uncover morsels of information which are genuinely “new”, but these tend to be learnings which are weak drivers of human behaviour like “your customer’s favourite colour is teal”.

I’ve always found the most powerful insights into human motivation are rarely new – just newly exposed, interpreted or narrated. In the same way writers might argue that there are really only 7 types of storylines, perhaps there is a similarly finite number of truly influential insights. So in thinking about insight, maybe we should be focusing less on “I never knew that” and more on “that’s so true”.


%d bloggers like this: