Tag Archives: scotland

A lovely trip to London: meeting with the APG and BIMA (and a call to arms for Scottish strategic people)

I wrote the start of this article thousands of feet circling high above Gatwick.

Gatwick is one of the worst airports. I don’t know what makes it worse than, say, Stansted, which seems to be universally loathed. I quite like Stansted because it’s small and feels regional and therefore quite friendly.

Anyway, this isn’t about airports. I was just dreading getting off the plane and doing the Gatwick palaver, which was a total palaver. And I was annoyed that I forgot my laptop charger and the emergency one I bought cost sixty quid and doesn’t even charge my laptop, it’s just a power lead that stops it from dying. What’s a blog for if you can’t put your gripes and grizzles into it?

Thanks for reading this far. I promise it gets better.

I’m now having a much nicer trip back, on a Virgin train. People keep bringing me food and coffee and I’ve got loads of work done. The wifi even mostly works. I like trains so much more than planes.

ANYWAY. The main purpose of my trip was to attend the first meeting of the judging panel of the BIMA awards which was great fun…

…But before that, I met up with Sarah Newman of the APG to talk about building a stronger network of strategic minds in Scotland.

For those of you who don’t know the APG, they are the industry body for planners and strategists in the UK.  Here’s what they say about themselves:

The APG is a not-for-profit organisation run for and by its members: primarily account planners in advertising agencies, but increasingly the wider community of communications strategists, including media planners, channel planners, digital planners and DM planners.

Their training is top notch (I should know, I’ve done a few of their courses) and they run fab events which are all up on YouTube if you want to check them out. Both training and events are held mainly in London and that was what I wanted to talk to Sarah about – could we try doing some events and/or training in Scotland?

The proposed events and training sessions would feature world class thinkers from all corners of the industry(ies) and bring people together – any person who does strategy and planning, from traditional agencies, design agencies, digital, and also from client-side.

From all over Scotland there are lots of people seeking out insight and applying them to make their communications stronger, their businesses more effective and it would be fab to do more to support each other and build a network that is both competitive and collaborative.

Events where we discuss things like, ‘what is an insight’? from different perspectives, we look at how insights are developed into ideas, how we know whether an idea is ‘good’ or not… And of course understand how to build strong brands that mean something in the complex world we now live in.

These events would be distinctive from other events in Scotland because their primary focus would be on strategy and would be aimed at people who have a say in their brand’s or their clients’ strategies in some way.

Just some initial thoughts, some of which might be wrong but I think the benefits of trying this could be as follows:

  • Creating a network of known ‘strategic minds’ – primarily for collaboration and support
  • Nurturing and growing strategic talent in Scotland
  • Building awareness of what strategy is and the value it adds
  • Enabling clients to understand whether their agencies are doing strategy right
  • Enabling agencies to find ways to improve their strategic offer

If you’re currently a member of the APG in Scotland you should have received an email from them asking your permission for me to email you – but if you’re not a member I’d still like to know if you would be interested in events/training that has a strategic focus. Let me know via the comments below, or via my Twitter or Linked In. You don’t need to be a planner or a strategist – I can see this appealing to designers, content managers, UX professionals, creatives, brand managers, insight peeps, analysts… So please get in touch if you would like to hear more as and when I get around to doing something.

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2014. A biased and subjective review.

I thought it would be good to look at 2014…  About 2 weeks ago, I started this article and then flu (mine and other people’s) and all that Christmas stuff got in the way.  And now, it’s 2015 and everything feels new and fresh so I’m not sure I want to harp on about the past but still, 2014 deserves a mention.  It was HUGE.  So here we go, this is what I wanted to say.

2014.  What a year.  There will be a million reviews out there of all the stuff that happened in internet-land, so I’m sticking to looking at my own year professionally and personally.  And actually, they are pretty much one and the same because they’re not that easy to keep separate (although when it comes to being a parent I do my best.)

Here we go.  5 things that made a big difference to me this year (in no particular order, the big things are sometimes the little things and the little things are sometimes the big things):

1. Going to San Francisco

Thanks to a bit of luck I was selected for the incredible Special Edition of the Cross Creative training programme run by TRC in Glasgow.  We did 8 months of training sessions here and then flew out to San Francisco which totally blew my mind.

It blew my mind in two ways.

One was personal. I’m half American but I’ve never really explored that part of my identity.  But my experience of America and Americans in SF was fab.  I wanted to be part of it.  I couldn’t help telling people that I was really half American.  But they liked the Scottish part better because that’s more interesting to them.

IMG_0087 IMG_0021 IMG_0075 IMG_0047

The other was work.  I wanted to move over there and work there immediately.  Drop everything and join the feeling that you were really part of something amazing that was happening.  But when I reflected on it, after I’d been back in flipping Glasgow for a couple of weeks I thought it would be way cooler to do something amazing here.  Perhaps because the summer of 2014 in Glasgow was completely amazing, it felt like we were at the centre of the universe here for a change.  There are fantastic things happening in Glasgow, we just have to be better at telling people about them.

2. Politics

We need more confidence about our own abilities and we need to move faster to make the world a better place, to progress rather than hark back to a past that discriminated against most people.  The referendum in Scotland showed that there is a sizeable number of people in Scotland who want to do things differently – just it’d be good if we could combine that desire for change with a bit more action and less talking maybe?  I don’t know.  I loved the power we felt we had during the referendum campaign and how social media allowed us to share information*, and feel like part of a movement, like we had a voice.  Our votes counted in 2014.  2015 is going to see some huge political shifts – hopefully positive ones.

3. The Rapha Women’s 100

On July 20th I got on my bike and then a train (then jumped off the train and ran back to Starbucks where I’d left my purse, then ran back and only just caught the train) to catch a boat to cycle round Arran and do 100K at the same time as thousands of other women.  The Rapha Women’s 100 is a virtual event, made possible by how connected we all are through social media.  So although I was solo, I knew I was not alone.

Arran is pretty tough to cycle round.  I felt that doing it on my own was a pretty significant achievement.  Thinking back on how I was screaming inside by the last 10K but still made the 16.40 ferry home helps me when I need to muster up a bit more determination to get through whatever I’m struggling with.  Cycling’s like that.  A lot of it’s horrible and painful but the buzz you get afterwards is like nothing else.

4. Building a team

In 2014 our strategy team grew bigger by about 200% and we are now developing new skills and specialisms to add more value to the services we offer our clients at Equator.  I’m really excited about the things we’re going to do in 2015.  Watch this space!

5. The changing nature of what we do

One of the reasons for the growth of our team, in size and skillsets, was because what we do is changing.  We are adapting to the changing needs of our clients and the market – breaking down silos and  coming up with better, stronger strategies and ideas.  Again, watch this space!

6. Small blogging achievements

And finally, I recently found that my post on assimilation was listed by @misentropy – so that’s really inspiring me to write more.  More about what I do as a strategist than this kind of personal stuff, which is not so easy to write about, I guess because it’s more for my benefit than for anyone else.  So – hopefully you’ll hear from me a bit more this year.

*see:

Social media more influential information source

Scottish independence: how Facebook could change it all

What impact could social media have?

 

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What’s it like doing strategy in Glasgow?

I’ve been inspired to write about what it’s like to be a planner in Scotland by Northern Planner’s post about being a strategist in the North.  I was also asked to guest blog about it earlier in the year by Simon Hopkins and totally failed to do anything about it.

My excuse?  Well, I have been very busy lately, with work and parenting and house tidying and so on.  But something else was holding me back which I can only really say was a bit of a stubborn chip on my shoulder which I have recently shed and which means I am embracing being a Scottish strategist with gusto.  I might write about that in another post, it’s quite an epiphany.

Anyway, I really enjoyed Northern’s post because it was positive on the whole and I nodded my head vehemently at many of his points, e.g.

While there are less big TV campaigns, there are lots of really interesting, more integrated projects. You’ll need to be good at getting how channels fit together and creating strategic platforms for IDEAS, rather than advertising ideas.

This is totally true.  I moved up here and had to get good at ‘digital’ and then found that digital was actually everything except big TV campaigns, which I’m actually not that bothered about anymore.  Doing content, brand, and UX and comms strategy is very satisfying, particularly when you know it’s being rolled out nationally, internationally.  You also know that at least half of what you do is actually useful to people and you can measure the impact it has on your client’s business.  It means, as Northern says, you don’t think in silos and you get a chance to change how your clients do business and not just think about their communications.

You’ll have to prove yourself. More than someone about from around here. No one will take your word for it about anything. But good places will give the chance.

This is the truest thing. You do have to prove yourself.  I failed to prove the value of strategy at three Scottish agencies before I started work at Equator and by jove I have worked hard to prove it at Equator too.  Still am.  I’m in no danger of getting complacent or too big for my boots.

Northern mentions a ‘lack of sophistication’ which I feel is more a reluctance to intellectualise in the same way as the Oxbridge graduates I felt inferior to back in the Big Smoke, and both Scottish agency people and clients are reluctant to disappear up their own arses when it comes to talking about work – they just want to ‘get it done’ a lot of the time, and they want to know what they are paying for.  Which is fair enough.  I’m working towards a nice balance of thinking and talking more about the important stuff and then getting down to making nice work.

I am sure that in the 7 years I’ve been back up north people have thought I’m a terrible snob about what I do and I’m a right pain in the bum a lot of the time because I keep asking ‘why are we doing this?’ and ‘Why would the target audience care about that?’ and ‘Can we just start using the language of brands for a change?’ but it’s more that I am trying to keep the principles of what I do secure and not waver from what I believe to be the right way to do things.  I’m driven to do things properly.  Because it’s fun and I think it leads to better work.

In 7 years I’ve barely worked with anyone who’s experienced life in a London advertising agency and this means that I’ve spent a lot of time trying to convince people without this frame of reference that ‘my way’ is the right way.  When what they’d been doing until I came along was working pretty well and all I did was annoy them and criticise them.

4 years ago a ‘good place’ did give me a chance and I’m still there, now with a 5-strong strategy team, which consists of people who weren’t planners when they joined but had the transferable skills to become planners.  In training them Equator now has a lovely diverse group of strategists who want to find out what the client’s objectives are before defining the solution, think deeply about user behaviour and collaborate with our designers, creatives and marketing specialists to develop joined-up routes to transforming our clients’ businesses.

I hope you can tell, I’m very proud of them.

One thing I don’t think I agree with Northern on is this:

What you need to prepared for, in general, in the creative side of things at least, is that you just won’t get the same kind of clients and do the same kind of work.

Now…  This is a really big misconception a lot of London types have.  It depends what agency you work at.  Work is what you make it and we beat big London agencies in pitches quite often, and a lot of our business is outside of Scotland.  Geography is a bit irrelevant.  There are some fantastic creative and strategic minds up here – the fact that we’re fewer in numbers could mean that we’re easier to find.  And we are all seasoned Easyjetters – we see our clients wherever they want to see us.

On the whole, being a strategist in Glasgow is great and I don’t think I’d want to work anywhere else now.  (Never say never obviously.)  Glasgow is known for its cool music and arts scene, it feels like things are happening here.  Being here means you have a 12 minute cycle to work, you can buy a nice flat or house near your friends and the centre of town, mountains and things are about an hour away, you get to work with nice people who want to make good, effective products and content real people want to engage with.

This year there’s been a feeling that it’s the best place to be – the summer was very exciting. And the winter ain’t that bad.  Just take vitamin D supplements and have a nice walk along the Clyde at lunchtime.

If you’re thinking of a move up north, we’d love to have you.  Look! A vacancy with your name on it.

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We’re planning the next She Says Scotland event

We’re planning the next She Says Scotland event.

I can’t say much about it now, apart from that it’s going to be very special and exciting and held in Glasgow… But I’ve been having some very exciting conversations today about speakers and venues.

If you do want to help out, either by speaking or suggesting a topic or by coming along and helping out generally,  please get in touch via She Says Scotland.

Remember, She Says is all about giving women from creative/digital industries a platform to share their experience and skills – but the events are open to all.  Spread the word and get ready to see some great speakers.

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Travels

It’s been a while since I wrote – must do better!  I do have a good excuse though – I have been very busy working on a digital research project for Highlands and Islands Enterprise, which has taken me all over Scotland.  Last week I was even in Orkney for the first time – it’s somewhere I would definitely like to go back when it’s a bit warmer and lighter.

This is the largest audience scoping project I have ever worked on, and it’s a steep learning curve.  I’ve really enjoyed getting my head around what the organisation does and I’m really looking forward to working on developing a clear set of personas.

It’s also meant that I’ve seen a lot of beautiful countryside in autumn (Glencoe yesterday was gorgeous) and got to know Inverness pretty well too (if you need a B&B recommendation, I’m your girl.)

Here’s a picture of clouds I took on my phone on the way back from Thurso a couple of weeks ago.  The clouds were phenomenal.

Thurso

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