Perspective is Everything

November 28, 2014

One of my favourite TED speakers is advertising guru and Vice Chairman of Ogilvy Group, Rory Sutherland. He is a hilarious and inspiring man who really gets the brain juices going. He makes ideas come to life in his story-telling way of describing things.

Although it’s quite old at this stage, “Perspective is Everything” from 2011 is one of my favourite of Sutherland’s TED Talks. He delves into behavioural psychology and makes it interesting, opening up our minds to issues we may have never thought about before.

For example, a psychological solution to deter people from crossing the road on a red pedestrian light is to give them a countdown so they know how long they’ll have to wait. Sutherland explores this and various other examples of psychology in our lives and how re-framing a situation can be the key to happiness. I hope you enjoy it too!


Techno – foe or friend?

November 21, 2014

Although I was immersed in the excitement, creativity, technology and entrepreneurial spirit of the web summit recently, I found myself lately cursing the very technology that allows me do my job. It led me to question who is driving the way we work – is it technology driving us or are we driving technology? In some ways it’s a symbiotic relationship – we are more so than ever living in a fast paced environment – deadlines are shorter, expectations are higher, results needs to be better, competition is fierce and there is someone ‘better’ around the corner who can do your job just as well as you can. So, what is pushing us to demand more? What is driving us to believe what we have is not good enough, fast enough? What is it that is adding to the speed at which we work? Is it the fact that we have been living in austerity for the last number of years and that we have had to tighten our belts, work harder to get the same or better results, to immerge from it? Why is new or faster always better? Have we ever stopped to think? To evaluate? To reassess?

It’s something I did very recently! Was it returning to work following my second maternity leave, to the busiest planning period of the year, trying to manage work, family, life that prompted this?  Wanting it all and realising that I couldn’t in fact have it! Something Eva Longoria said stuck – we ‘’can have it all, just not at the same time’’. So I stopped.


I evaluated – I was working at a pace that in my mind technology could not support – multiple tasks & requests due at the same time – and when my working day was done, multiple tasks to be dealt with when I got home, and of course I could always squeeze in a few other tasks, catch ups, emails etc. before I went to bed!? And so I stopped…this is not how we were made to work? Technology cannot support multiple requests at the same time either – it works when it is working in a regulated, systematic manner – one request at a time. I have always been a huge fan of the flexible worker – someone who has a myriad of skills – but this type of talent can only lead to results when smart working is applied – so of course we need to work hard but we need to work smart – Technology can help – but time spent on systems, processes, training, tools and communication, can only ensure that the technology supporting the business can add value. We need to manage the inputs and evaluate the outputs – the technology can do the work, but without ensuring smart working with rigorous processes, the best technology will not automatically lead to the best results.  So when I listen to the promises of technological advances, I wonder who is dealing with the same advances that are needed to manage, evaluate and assess this technology. Is this the accountant in me? Was it my old college science days forcing me to ask WHY over and over again? Am I destined to always treat technology with just a teeny bit of scepticism? Maybe I have been programmed to do this – to evaluate, to assess?

Perhaps the new symbiotic relationship should be a combination of techno friends and techno foes – each questioning, challenging and driving each other. Often I have come across technology that just cannot deliver what we want it to – it can store the results, it can churn the data, but does it support the business? Does it allow us to evaluate? To re-assess? To add value? Had the technology been developed with input from the business or had the promise of technology, of the delivery or launch date, pushed it to completion – had the drive and need to be the best, the quickest, the newest, dare I say the smartest, delivered a tool but without a system?

So, I stopped. I stopped trying to be either. I am neither a techno friend or techno foe. I need it as much as it needs me. But will I stop questioning it? Will I stop challenging it? No. That type of stopping I just won’t do.

– Evelyn

Halloween has come and gone and before we could finish the left over sweets the Christmas ads had already begun. Whatever your opinion on the fact that Christmas is beginning earlier and earlier, it can’t be denied that many of us are excited to see certain company’s ads each year. Many of us in the office will gather around one person’s desk to watch them as they’re released. The results are a mixture of tears, sobs, smiles and sometimes an “I’m not mad on it”.

Either way, we’re always excited to see them. Below are some of Christmas 2014’s ads:

– Rachel

I was asked to write a blog recently – I had to stop and think for a minute (and then of course google!) – What is a blog anyway? What should it say? Would anyone really read it? Would anyone really care?  And then it hit me, literally hit me, I realised that it was nearly 22 years since I had written anything that didn’t involve an analysis on something specific, or a report on a work issue. In other words, any ‘writing’ I had done was business writing with no room or indeed need for creativity or wit or humour. Although some would argue that as an accountant we lack creativity, wit and humour anyway!

This also was true when I lost a friend’s phone number and the only method of communication was by writing a letter – I’m still in the process of trying to write it. I mean I have tried – but in some ways it seems a bit forced, and almost formal and unfriendly! A chat on the phone cannot be misinterpreted; a chat doesn’t leave someone wondering what the other person was trying to say. Yet…here we are in the 21st Century and we communicate now even more by technology that we ever did. We send emails to colleagues sitting beside us, we Facebook our friends on their birthdays rather than calling them, we post pictures and save them on our devices rather than putting them in picture frames and hanging them up – we commiserate, rejoice, poke fun and joke with each other through social media – in fact we have even taken to sympathising on the passing of someone on these sites. In fact I found out about the death of an old friend living in the States on Facebook – when he died the family didn’t know how to contact me – so Facebook did! It seemed wrong. Very wrong – but yet I have become immersed in this world too. Too often we ‘hide’ behind the email – have you ever heard someone say ‘’it’s just easier to send a mail’’ – and yes it might be easier, but it is just a little bit more social or human to speak! How often to you find yourself cursing the talking telephones, frustrated as all you want to do is speak with a human? How often do you feverously write an email getting straight to the point, only to have to go back to beginning of it to add ‘’How are you?’’ before you hit the send button?


I cannot live without a form of communication that is functional, fast, and dare I say it retrievable. We almost use it as a means to clarify – just in case we didn’t understand what was said! Just in case we need to remind someone that they didn’t do something. We use it dismissively – ‘I’m really busy now, just send me an email and I’ll get to it’’. We use it as a record – it gives us protection and security.

We are told that it’s good to talk – but have we forgotten our social skills in our techno savvy world? People sitting in restaurants, on the bus, in the car –  texting, twittering,  pleading with people to like them, watch them, look at them, follow them, hire them. Have we become so busy, has time become so precious that it’s quicker to ‘not talk’ and more efficient to text or tweet? Are we in fear of always been switched on? Will the lure of technology of the permanent ‘on switch’ remove the very joy of flicking through a book, smelling the print from the pages rather than reading in on a device?  Will it mean that we will forget how to write? Our fingers will allow us to type, but when we get to write a letter, how can we edit it? Recheck it? Delete it? Will it remove the world renowned friendly persona that we are known to have in Ireland? How often have you observed people out in a group, all with their devices and no one speaking? It’s almost turning into ‘’people should be seen but not heard’’ scenario.

In spite of all of this will I be putting the phone away? Will I be switching off my email? Probably not. But I will switch ON when I am with my friends and family, I will engage with them on a personal level, I will listen to what they are saying, I will give them my attention. I will ensure that my children read books and love to write. I will ensure that they can have a conversation with a human (!), rather than having their noses in an iPad!

And when I need the news, or a quick update, or have a last minute request, I will once again switch back ON to whatever form of communication I need. When you think about it, I will need the very form of communication that I sometimes scorn to get this message out…poetic justice!


It’s annual planning time of year. With it comes a mixture of emotions. Excitement, as it is a time of reappraisal and setting in place goals for a collective better future; nervousness, as one hopes that the natural swings and roundabouts of business fortune come out in your favour and that the magic target figure is achievable, if all goes according to plan. Nothing ever does go according to plan, yet most of the time, we manage to blend together our business skills and expertise to navigate the barriers that fall in our way and deliver the required result.

On a personal level, I sense some of my friends beginning to set themselves up for challenges in the year ahead too. I few questions, subtly couched, in “what would you think if?”, or “I wish I could do this”, or “Do you think I’d be any good at this?”.

It comes back to a favourite cliché, that the only constant is change. Both in business and in life, I believe that the concept of creative destruction applies. Creative destruction describes the “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionises the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.” The analogy works in all aspects life too. For some, it is all too daunting a concept, and they look to the security blanket of the familiar to try their best to defy change of any sort. Others, jump recklessly in with both feet, irrespective of consequences.  These dual human traits spawn whole industries in themselves. Self-help, any sort of improvement programmes, and dare I say, the classic New Year’s resolution of joining the gym could all fall into the category of whether we deny or embrace creative destruction. As with most industries, the success or failure of them revolves around the marketing. Be it highlighting the problem and then, conveniently, providing the solution or simply making people aware that there is another way to live their lives. For the individual or indeed the business to make the decision that is best for them, a period of reflection and appraisal is necessary to make sure we make the best choices to guide us through the next stage of our existence. It can be tough, it can be intellectually challenging but it’s an aspect of business life that means I enjoy this time of year with all the excitement and nervousness that it brings.


Graduate recruitment. What a horror show. I studied marketing in the country’s ‘top’ university for four years, and I came out of there not knowing that my current job exists. I can’t even claim that I had presumed it all happened within a full service advertising agency either; I’m saying that I’m not sure I could swear that I had ever wondered what happened between the Don Draper bit and the ad appearing on TV.

How on earth can that have happened? How is it still happening? I met a class of final year marketing students last year. When talking them through the role of a media agency, it was pretty clear that I was delivering brand, spanking new news.

There is plenty of blame to go around. Career guidance in schools is woefully under-funded. Same at college.  But what about the students? By the end of college, shouldn’t they have sought out this information for themselves?

Why don’t they? They answer is, they know they don’t need to. They know that we, like most industries, hire on potential; personality, record of achievement, proven relevant skills (tough enough with grads) and a fair degree of gut feel.

This all rose to top of mind again today when I saw this video doing the rounds:

This grad is being lauded for having the initiative to put this video together and get it to people who might be able to give him a job. In it he says “If you’re a marketing, a HR manager and you work for a marketing, advertising firm, then I’m interested”. I’m not sure he could have been any less specific. All this tells me is that he thinks that marketing and advertising are the same thing.

This is, of course, hypocritical. I’ve already said that I was just as ignorant myself. But I don’t think we can accept that any longer; with the amount of information available now, grads should be coming to us with a decent understanding of what we do; at least enough of an understanding to have a list of questions as long as their arm.

We work in a bloody brilliant industry; and we’re all vying to make it better, day by day. Graduate applicants should be dying to prove to us why they want to get stuck in.




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