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How to live a remarkable life May 25, 2018

Posted by nicholas gill in advertising, agency life, career, digital nomad, freelance, office life, remote working, social media, Uncategorized.
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This is Thalassa. Thalassa is happy. Not just because of the Tony’s Chocolonely in her hand. Because she’s engineered a way to make her work fit her life goals. Just look at her and how happy she is.

She always had a dream to live and work in Barcelona, a city she feels is home rather than her native Netherlands. (Apart from Tony’s Chocolonely which elicits the reaction you see in the photo). But life gets in the way… rent or mortgage… relationships… career… and then your goals become dreams… and then the dreams become unattainable because of the shackles of the life you created because of societal norms.

What would happen if you really focussed on making those dreams and goals happen?

Well, Thalassa is the result.

Although kick-started by a relationship ending, it gave her the momentum to make the change. She set out to start breaking the ties from needing to be present in an office to do her job. How could she take her skills and abilities and make them attractive to people to pay her money? How could she help people overcome the need for someone to be physically present? Partly she’s helped here by a shift toward more remote-working and organisations seeing the benefits of both giving more autonomy to people to work in a way that suits them best alongside an uptick in outsourcing to trusted partners rather than off-shoring for cost efficiency alone.

So she set out a plan to generate clients and to also create a passive income plan based on her experience to support or supplement as required. This wasn’t easy. Part of what you don’t see on the surface too is the investment in networking and talking to others in her situation, providing as much assistance as receiving.

And then the time came when she was confident enough to cut the ties, book the one-way ticket and move. She doesn’t have an office but uses the local co-working space in Barcelona which is hugely impressive, vibrant and is right next door the marina. A premium setting to work and to meet people. Which is exactly what we did when we went out to see her with our equally wonderful client who we all work with.

And you know why she’s managed to make this a reality? Because she’s damn good at what she does. She always delivers what she says. She’s smart, imaginative, creative and trusted. She’s flexible to work however we want whether that’s via Slack, using the community management tools clients prefer or on the phone. As a result we’ve grown our scope with her and the results and the way of working are just fabulous. What’s better is that she’s enjoying what she does, focussing on projects that also make her happy. Eventually getting to a place where she can pick and choose the projects that she wants to do, not just the ones that pay the bills.

So what’s my version of this? I think this is what I’ve struggled with for some time and why I’m now finally trying to work through this. To look beyond the immediacy. I don’t have the answers yet and I’m going to try and work through it but one thing that feels like it’s going to help me, at least to set the broad parameters, is Debbie Millman’s technique for living a remarkable life.

It’s pretty simple. Write a letter to yourself from the future. Ten years ahead. Write how you want to be, what you’re doing, be as descriptive as possible. And re-visit the letter every year. It’s uncanny how many of her students have realised their dreams using this technique. So I’m going to start here.

Here’s a neat site that summarises this technique and points to the interview with Debbie.

Here’s to a remarkable life… and here’s to Thalassa!

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Introducing Zuck – Facebook’s new Chief Creative Officer January 18, 2018

Posted by nicholas gill in advertising, facebook, social media, thought leadership, Uncategorized.
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Yet again, a Facebook newsfeed update garners more column inches in our feeds than atrocities happening across the world. But that’s the echo chamber we live in. So here’s my thoughts.

After being lauded for doing ker-azy things as CEO like spending a year in another country or visiting every state in the US just because… because he can, the revelations of Russian interference and blatant click-baiting in both the US and UK political scene, it looks like Zuck got back to work. And has re-framed the conversation to make Facebook seem all cosy again. By making it much more about those real ‘moments of interaction’. So you’ll see more posts from people you want to interact with – your friends and family – and less from people you don’t. I, for one, will be happy to see less of the dreadful memes and those Lad Bible videos. I can but hope.

Basically he’s just weeding out the crap. Again. And again, everyone reacts in horror. How will I get my brand message in front of people now?

Well, stop creating shit content for a start.

In effect Zuck has just laid a red line (I listen to Radio 4 and that seems like a new fangled phrase these days) about shit posts. Unless your friends did it. Shit posts from brands are dead. Find stock photo, add motivational line, add copy, slap it on the page. Dead. Organic posts. Pretty much dead too.

And we should all celebrate that surely?

What is incumbent on brands is to bring back creativity. And align it to a media strategy. Creativity of thought and execution. Thought into those meaningful moments of interaction. Hasn’t marketing always been about that? What is my audience thinking/feeling/doing now and what would I like them to be thinking/feeling/doing? The joy if a platform like Facebook is that it is an advertising platform (because that is what we really should start to think about it as if you are not already) and you can micro target to the niche you want and exactly when you want minimising the wastage of other larger advertising platforms. What’s become the downfall of recent times has been shit content.

The move to video as a preferred format by users also drives the level of creativity up. You’re not going to enjoy a stock film are you? It starts to make the case for better investment in a channel where you’ve built a community. It starts to make a case for treating ‘social content’ like an advertising campaign. Call it moments of meaningful interaction if you like but it’s more advertising mindset than ever.

What can brands and agencies do?

  1. Make better creative content that has relevance and impact.
  2. Experiment with closed groups to truly deepen relationship with your core fans and bring added value.
  3. Experiment with video and live video content.
  4. Experiment with ‘tag a friend’ content but in a non-shit way. Obvs.
  5. Seriously invest in your paid strategy and advertising messages.
  6. Stop thinking of social content as calendar filling fodder.

Won’t you miss those random brand associations with random national day of blah? No, me neither.

 

Photo by Sticker Mule on Unsplash

Postcards from the beach – 2017 edition December 12, 2017

Posted by nicholas gill in advertising, digital advertising, influencers, silicon beach, social media, thought leadership, Uncategorized.
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At the end of September, I spent two days by the beach listening, learning and starting to live again. Curated by the self-styled most selfish event organiser in the world, Matt Desmier, Silicon Beach is a complete mystery. You have some idea of some of the speakers but no idea when they talk, what they will talk about or indeed what may happen.

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I went last year and was completely smitten with the format compared to the typical bloviation from other conferences so had high hopes. Hopes that were fulfilled. And then some. And while I wrote some digital postcards last year to some people who really stood out for me, I wrote some actual postcards this time.

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You may have got one in the post. There are still one or two who haven’t even got one yet because it really has been impossible to find the addresses of some people; easier to find an address in Montenegro than Marylebone. But let’s get back to the beach…

Matt makes a thing of there being no theme, just people he wants to listen to and learn form. And that seems to be good advice for life in general, let alone a conference.

But there was a theme for me.

To get on and do things.

Because time is short. Because we’ve been hoodwinked that timesheets are the most important thing in advertising. That the colour by numbers dumbing down of creativity by Facebook et al is the temple we should all be praying at because they dominate over 2/3 of the internet.

That actually, we should be more rebellious in our behaviour and intent. Because life is short. As Billy Connolly once observed,  you should be anarchic and put stink bombs under the rim of the toilet or cling film over the porcelain on train journeys because…

“Do these things. You’ll improve your life no end.”

A theme that really came alive and punched you in the face with Chris Barez-Brown’s talk right at the end with him sharing that you spend 80% of your life on auto pilot with a need to Wake Up!

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A theme that Paul Armstrong showed in high-speed fashion (I may have to buy his book to try and remember what he speed-talked through) with his tiny square of paper showing you what little time you have left to do something.

A theme that Scarlett Montanaro recognised and that advertising wasn’t fuelling and did her own thing. Being the dependable back-up and timesheets are not the reason we got into advertising. Scarlett encouraged everyone to spend at least 20% of their time at work working on side projects or things you really give a shit about. Because while the industry still requires you to be chained to a desk for hours on end, you may as well be productive and doing stuff you like and can make a difference rather than endlessly staring at social media.

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A theme that came up with Sally, with Victoria and with Vanja about attention, sleepwalking, doing the same thing. We think we know our problems inside out, but history shows that sometimes the excuses we make are preventing progress (or survival). When we say ‘that’s the way it’s always been done’ or ‘that’s just how it is / has to be’ there’s a danger in complacency, and that the competition will overcome that challenge first.

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Where advertising has become colouring by numbers to feed the digital machines of Facebook and Google. Where our short-termist, instant gains culture has created an obsession with quantifiable metrics. We need to embrace the chaos (Bo Hellberg) that we seem to process out of everything in search of efficiency. Chaos is the part of every story where the magic happens, and it’s the same with work. We can start with data, but it should never form the whole solution. If we want to affect real change, we must change our centre of gravity from chasing data to embracing chaos.

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And put penis’ on 20 foot presentation screens. Because life is too short. Do these things, they’ll improve your life no end.

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That we over-complicate, we spend time on the wrong things and that we need to wake up, do things that matter and do things that excite us. To think without the restrictions growing up places on us (Richard Gerver).

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To demonstrate our value, we’re overcomplicating things and obscuring potential solutions. Embrace the clocks and clouds in life as Matt Ballantine would say.  Clocks work in a very specific way and require expertise to make them work and carry out a necessary task. Clouds are intangible, transient and ever changing – this is where we should experiment, not knowing the exact value of the activity going in.

Be inspired, be braver (Dave McQueen) and think about what our own legacy may be. Don’t follow the herd (Up Your Elvis as Chris B-B would say, a nod back to Mark Earls from last year there too).

And in a dystopian manner, I loved Marcus’ ‘The Passing’ to bits. I say talk,  it was art. Beautifully conceived and delivered. Truly stand out. But also terrifyingly believable following on from several of the talks about the rise of the influencers.  The man is a genius. Read the Forbes review if you don’t believe me. I hope he does get a book deal.

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It’s hard to really tell you more. I have lots more notes. I have lots more actions and ideas. And in a way, that’s the joy of Silicon Beach. You really should be there to experience it. To try and do a post about it really doesn’t do it that much justice but I have tried.

Do these things. It’ll improve your life no end.

See you on the beach in 2018.

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Should social media be allowed at work? February 2, 2017

Posted by nicholas gill in social media, thought leadership, Uncategorized.
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With employees ‘wasting’ up to a third of their day being distracted with things like social media, office chat, going online in work hours, I was asked to comment this week in Times supplement, Raconteur on whether social media should be allowed at work. What do you think?

We don’t limit what our teams can and cannot do when it comes to social media, web surfing or office chat. We think they should be grown up enough to know how to manage their time and distractions without a rule book. In the service industry, our work hours and projects are rarely predictable so there has to be ebb and flow to balance the demands we will ask of our teams to deliver projects.

We use social media a lot for our clients so there is a natural need to spend time being involved to understand the changes, the content and what competitors are doing. The one thing we do ask is that in meetings, phones are not on the table as the clarion call of the notification bombardment is overwhelmingly distracting and you need to present and attentive to ensure meetings are effective and timely.

 

 

 

why we ‘like’ October 23, 2014

Posted by nicholas gill in patrick mulford, social media, theaudience.
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I adore Patrick. We used to work together. He’s now in LA working for theAudience. I miss working with Patrick because he would tell you tales of the most amazing things, particularly his fascination with tattoos which you can explore in his book. And of course he was pretty decent as a Creative Director too. So it was a little treat to watch him perform on stage at Social Media Week in LA recently via the interwebs (you’ll need to register to watch which seems pretty anti-social and content equality but there you go). Why social media still needs a week is still beyond me. Direct mail never got a week. I still miss chromalin proofs. Anyway, Patrick’s argument is that social media just reflects what we do as humans. What we’ve always done. It’s just a new way of doing it.

He argues that social media is the new bedroom wall and given that we’re fond of sharing our associations and passions across social, he’s pretty spot on. And that we edit our own social content to project the ‘me that I want people to see.’ That memes and hashtags mitigate the risk of us normal people exposing ourselves and reduce the risk of sharing.

At theAudience, they break down social media into 4 things. Yes, only 4 –  a refreshing change versus the bollocks of the social world I shared yesterday.

1. It’s about communication.

2. It helps you create social identity through affiliation (to groups, people, stars, brands etc.)

3. It enables you to share life moments.

4. It helps you express mutual values and passions.

Common sense at last. No world-changing rhetoric, just a clear perspective on what social media does.

But put that aside because the real magic is the first 25 minutes or so of Patrick telling stories (and trying to hide in the shadows and wander around the stage). The story about Hemingway being challenged to tell a story in 6 words is beautiful. And one that every community manager charged with 140 characters should heed.

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

The history and evolution of emotions explored by Robert Plutchick is staggeringly simple but also inspiring and helps the storyteller to shape stories to move between emotions seemingly at will.

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And of course he references one of his tattoo journeys. Do buy the book, it’s not really about tattoos. It’s about human experiences and a very personal take on life. Although it was nice to see Patrick’s tattoos finally on display. And the neck scarf too.

Thank you Patrick. One day my friend, one day…

social media is bullshit October 21, 2014

Posted by nicholas gill in social media.
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We’ve all wondered this at some stage surely? Probably when we’re sat in meetings and hear the word ‘engagement’ used so often you start imaging doing horrible things to the person using that word. Or to yourself if you’re the one saying it (I have). I borrowed this book from my copywriter, Ian. The first half seeks to debunk the entire mythology surrounding social media and in effect portrays it as something that has been created purely to create revenue for the people who talk social media up. The author takes down the ‘cyber hipsters’ and the glossy social campaigns that have been touted before us in the style of the second coming and venting much furious anger particularly at the likes of Chris Brogan who styled themselves as some form of social demi-god and challenged everyone who wasn’t getting returns in social that they just weren’t doing it right (i.e. come to me, pay me a truck load of dollar bills and I will help you). It’s fascinating. And makes you re-think the language we all use when talking about social media. The book then loses its way a little and goes off on some kind of road trip example of how social just doesn’t work. I think the author could have stopped half way and saved me another train journey reading it but hey. I’ll forgive him this though because who doesn’t like an Arnie quote as a chapter heading?

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The author is clearly tapping into the unease people feel about social media and how people make it seem so complicated and that actually it’s so completely different from other media that we shouldn’t worry too much about how it contributes to sales. Well, what is the point then? People glibly say that they have moved on from the ‘vanity metric’ of Likes and follower counts but they haven’t really. When challenged to run a survey to draw out brand advocacy, purchase frequency and to re-run this activity every quarter to track impact of the activity, some brands (and agencies) shy away from this. Why? Will it expose the fact that social may not be working? Tracked well – and of course with some tight content that is core to the brand – social can contribute to direct sales or lead generation. Not tracked, you’re just contributing to the vagueness of social and the beigeness of the platforms.

It’s interesting to listen to this radio broadcast (or podcast) directly after reading this book. I struggled with a lot of the ‘social’ese’ being talked about but particularly that the ‘old way’ is to pay for attention on a media channel. With social media, you can create your own audience. Erm… Facebook and Twitter and the likes are essentially media platforms. Hungrily sucking your media dollars to get your shiny social content in front of your followers. You don’t play by their rules, you don’t win. They are advertising platforms. They are not free. You have to pay to be seen. And pay people to create that content that gets seen. And you have to determine if the investment you’re making is worth the 4,500 people who participated in a competition to choose the Asda Christmas tea towel campaign. Or whether £20,000 you paid to a You Tube vlogger to make a video baking cupcakes using Asda ingredients is good value. It probably was when he says it attracted 500,000 views (4p per view) but how many went on to buy? Did the loop get closed? You can bet when they spend £500,000 on Michael Owen for a TV commercial that the media impact gets analysed to death and that you see an impact in sales when the campaign is running.

Social media is also rife with play books, tips, tricks and formulas for success. One talked about in this radio show was that you have to create 10 posts of ‘engaging’ content, which Asda chap described as “it can sound like nonsense” in order to get across your 1 post that you want to ‘sell’ with or ‘get them to do what we want them to do.’ While on the one hand that explains the proliferation of posts telling us that it’s Friday, on the other, it contributes to the attack of the beige. Think about it. In what other media do you produce 10 pieces of nonsense and then one ad that tries to elicit a response?

I don’t think social media is bullshit but I do think we need to be very careful about how it is used and how we talk about it. We need to show it can be effective in helping a brand deliver it’s objectives. I like the way this Lego social person sums up how they measure social:

We measure ROI in four different ways: direct Sales, brand affinity building, marketing efficiency and our ability to mitigate risk/damage control.

this is what excellence in integrated digital communications looks like August 2, 2014

Posted by nicholas gill in advertising, align technology, award, communique awards 2014, digital, Doner, integration, invisalign, social media.
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We won an award recently and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am. It was for the work we’ve been doing for Align Technology to generate awareness and lead generation for Invisalign across Europe.

The award was for the 2013 consumer campaign, “Smile and the Whole World Smiles With You” received the Excellence in Integrated Digital Communication award at the 2014 Communique Awards on July 3.

The Invisalign Smile campaign ran across key markets in Europe, where a mix of appointment-to-view television programming on digital channels was sponsored with integrated digital direct response, social media paid advertising, social media community activation programs, Pay Per Click, and digital innovations such as Zeebox in the UK and use of the new Twitter Card lead generation functionality. This strategic approach was designed to get more target consumers to ask for Invisalign treatment at dental practitioners and leveraged an integrated consumer marketing campaign that engaged and motivated people with problem teeth to start Invisalign treatment.

The award judges summed it up nicely:

“The beauty of this campaign is its demonstration of what could be achieved outside standard pharma practice. It was a paradigm in terms of its integration of carefully chosen, appropriate channels and had digital at its heart. It’s also very in-sync with where the industry is going to have to go in terms of the breadth and connectivity of different communications channels.”

 

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And it also worked, here’s what Raph, the VP International at Align had to say:

“The Invisalign Smile campaign had a significant impact including driving prompted brand awareness for Invisalign and achieving 30% growth for Invisalign lnfo Kit downloads and Find an Invisalign Provider searches. Our social media community grew a phenomenal 140% (2.5X) year on year and the Smile campaign helped to impact our total business objective by increasing Invisalign case submissions.”

 

Really terrific stuff. I’m really proud of this work. It shows what can happen when a client and agency work together in a proper relationship to deliver great things.

 

Distraction and the Internet April 17, 2014

Posted by nicholas gill in distraction, internet, productivity, social media, Uncategorized, website, webtrate.
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65% of us get distracted by the Internet. Distracted form doing stuff by doing more stuff like emails, general web surfing and of course, social media. 53% also admitted that the reduction in productivity caused them dissatisfaction and unhappiness.

I can empathise. I’m far too easily distracted at present. I need to switch off. And now you can with Webtrate. Despite the site looking like it’s come from the 90s – deliberate given the context of what they’re trying t do I hope – you sign up and get a number of options to turn off all these distractions and focus. Anything from a simple timer to a complete lock down. Splendid.

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i almost did it September 16, 2013

Posted by nicholas gill in productivity, social media.
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I’ve tried to switch off from email and social before. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. After changing a few holidays around due to work commitments this year,  I was determined to switch off from work this time round. And that also meant an opportunity for no tweeting, facebooking, checking gmail etc.

It’s a lot harder than it seems. I turned off the work email and realised that my weakest time is putting the kids to bed. When they’re in the little period between shutting their eyes and then properly in the land of nod. Sometimes this takes a few minutes, more usually about 10 – 20. Usually time to attempt the inbox zero challenge and catch up on the social firehose.

Easiest to not look at was Twitter. I went the whole week. No desire to check it. Next was work email. Turning it off stops the easy lapse. I only weakened by need rather than choice as I needed to extend my break due to unforseen circumstances. So had to quickly do this on the Sunday. In and out. 90+ unread a pleasant surprise and quick eyeball meant no horror stories on the return. Switched off. I did plop a few Instagram photos out. Mainly during the kids sleep time when I got frustrated playing Minion Rush (damn, it’s hard. I must be getting old).

I only Facebook’d a few times. To share our boy’s birthday and first day at school pictures.

It’s quite surprising how the urge to take a photo, tweet or update your status is subconsciously gnawing away at you. All the time. I didn’t miss Twitter at all. I think if it had not been a birthday/back to school occasion I would not have felt the need to Facebook either. And after two days I didn’t feel the constant need to check work email either. I only looked at the home email as we’re trying to move house and lots happening there.

As a result, I’m trying not to be always-on. I’m trying to do it in bite-size chunks as I get distracted too easily. I don’t need to turn the phone on in the morning and check. I find it more relaxing. We had our son’s birthday party at the weekend and I kept my phone firmly in my pocket. No tweets, no pictures, no status updates. Just an enjoyable afternoon out.

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does social media destroy productivity? November 6, 2012

Posted by nicholas gill in social media.
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Every time someone at work gets an IM, a Facebook message or a tweet, it takes them a whopping 23 minutes to get back on task. Here’s a nice infographic to illustrate how social can affect productivity.

Thanks to Kayla for sharing.

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