Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How big are you?

In the past few weeks I’ve been asked 3 times how many people I employ. It’s a funny question really, a bit like asking how many pens I have. I guess prospects want to know if I have sufficient ‘resources’ to service their business.

If I were running a mill in the eighteenth century, numbers of worker bees would matter. But the digital revolution has changed all that. Brain-power has replaced man-power.

Choosing a creative supplier has never been easy. One way of judging a company’s success was to count heads. The bigger the better. Right? Wrong.

Take a little company I know of. Last time I heard, it had 5 full time staff and no plans to expand that number. If you met the founder, Jimmy, at a party you might think that he was a slightly nerdy guy who did things to do with computers or the internet. You’d be right.

Jimmy Wales runs Wikipedia, with only 5 full time staff. That's right. Mighty Wikipedia runs on only 5 full time staff! Sure they have thousands of eager helpers. And that's just the point. A modern company can run very well with a few full timers supported by contractors as and when needed.

Wikipedia is probably the best example of the power of outsourcing. But there are many others.

When a friend wanted a full orchestral sound and real opera singers to launch a brand of pasta sauce, did he go hunting for a building that contained just such a group of talented individuals? Of course not.

I went to Raphael May, who has a staff of one (himself) and works from a home studio. Raf hired the best opera singers and classical musicians that Australia had to offer. My mate watched in awe as a small group of musicians laid down it’s tracks and left his studio to be replaced by the next group and the next layer of sound.

Soon they had an outstanding soundtrack that was the core of a very successful TV campaign and launch.

How many staff did Raff have? One. How many did he hire for the task? Twenty or so. Were they the best professional musicians available? You bet!

A third example is Omo detergent. I ran the creative advertising business for about 18 months. We produced 4 TV campaigns and 5 print campaigns. I was alone … but I wasn’t alone. I had a line up of professionals helping me every step of the way with this multi-million dollar account. My client got very effective work for a fraction of the cost.

So when it comes to creative suppliers, maybe the question should not be the quantity of staff we have, but the quality of contacts we have.

Jimmy has thousands of contributors filing entries in Wikipedia. Rafael knows Australia’s best mussos. And I have a little black book bulging with golden phone numbers.

We all create outstanding results ... even if Friday night staff drinks are a little quiet.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Old dogs new tricks

You have the biggest software company in the world. You’re riding the wave of the most important communication revolution, since Gutenberg pinched movable type from the Chinese. Where do you advertise the brand that has become synonymous with the digital revolution?

On TV of course!

Microsoft plans to launch a campaign to counter the ‘I’m a Mac and I’m a PC” ads that have been so successful for Apple Mac (See AdNotes, June 2007).

The Microsoft work is ALSO aimed at smothering the general attitude that it’s new Vista operating system is riddled with bugs and other problems.

Who have they chosen to be the main spruiker?

Another surprise.

None other than Jerry Seinfeld. As you know, if you’ve been paying attention, I believe that Seinfeld is a genuine comic genius (See AdNotes, Jan 2007). And while his TV series was the biggest thing on TV, that WAS in the nineties! The naughties are nearly over for Pete’s sake!

None the less, Gerry’s cut of the $US300 million marketing campaign is $US10 million. Now that’s a talent fee. I wonder if he gets annual rollovers as well.

The creative agency behind the idea is Miami-based Crispin Porter + Bogusky, possibly the coolest creative shop in the world today.

The slogan is (or might be, no one is sure yet) "Windows, Not Walls" and is all about connecting and communicating with others without barriers.

Due for roll-out on September 4, I for one can’t wait to see how works.

There is some chatter that Jerry and Bill Gates will be ‘acting’ together. That should be interesting. Gerry has never pretended to be anything other than a stand up guy. And I’ve heard that Bill is a pretty stiff with scripted lines and planned banter.

The world's biggest computer software company, an 83 year old medium, and a 54-year-old comic who hasn’t been on air since 1998!

That's creativity.

Adman and author Harry Beckwith claims that good advertising IS IT'S OWN PR. In this case I think he's right. Look, I'm writing about a campaign I haven't even seen yet.

Most of us will never have a budget that could include Jerry Seinfeld. But we can all aim to create a little genuine 'buzz' by being unexpected in our advertising and marketing.

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