30 Jun 2006

planning above and beyond

What a great day! Spectacular John Griffiths of Planning Above and Beyond was here in out very city, training a bunch of planners&co. As Bogdana and Costin have already written (since they’ve had the training yesterday), the course was pretty much about basics of planning we were already familiar with. Which didn’t matter a single bit, as far as i am concerned. The extremely charismatic style of presentation, the loads of tips and tricks, the spicy case studies and account recollections, all in all, the mark of both a great experience and personality have gone way beyond the theoretical background he introduced, thus making the workshop really interesting, thought-provoking and useful. Not to mention inspirational and motivating. It’s such a pleasure for me to listen to such passionate brilliant people talking about planning – they simply put a smile on my face, which i cannot wipe for quite a while afterwards.

Now, Costin is right: it would take a whole day to write about all ideas taken out of this course, so i’m gonna try to be as brief as possible.

The main idea of the training, regardless of how aware we were of it before, was that planning is all about adding value. Actually, it’s more than that, cause if you don’t add value, you just add cost. The fact that i’m sure many of us still forget about this tiny detail many times only makes another small observation in the training really useful: the importance of us understanding the business model of the agency we’re working in. This might be common sense, but, again, it’s something i’m sure many of us don’t practice too much.

We also talked about us planners being insecure and neurotic cause nobody actually needs us, or, better said, “you don’t need a planner to do an ad”, but then again, you don’t necessarily need a creative team either to do an ad (and here i tend to agree with him, Bogdana, because even if you’re very right about art directors, still, i believe one could have great copy ads, which are not that difficult to arrange in a page). So we don’t have to despair or something, but realize that our job comes down to finding where we are supposed to add value. Actually, to realize that what we’re doing is not necessarily a job, but more precisely a way of working, which implies a number of “responsibilities” – and if anybody else wants to do planning in any other department (which they often do), that’s cool, and we should allow them, only making sure that those responsibilities are covered, therefore the campaign development process is carefully covered. In brief, (and i know damn well whom i’m writing this for) the planning role is collaborative, not competitive, and it’s very ok if others compete to fulfill it. That’s why we should also keep in mind the importance of sharing ideas, of blogs, of staying open-minded, rather than afraid people are out to get your ideas, tools and so on.

And there was another interesting discussion about the difference between creative brief and creative briefing. At least, it was very interesting for me, cause i suffer a lot from this point of view in my agency, as far as both the way in which and the place where briefing is done are concerned. I can only hope that i’ll triumph one day and routine will be broken. But thing is, creatives can read and if you only read out loud the brief for them, you only have a reading session, and not a briefing, which should be an inspiring, creative process. For example, John said he used to evaluate how good his briefing was by how fast the creatives left the room. Cause if you do a great job as a planner when briefing, they’ll get ideas during the session, and they’ll be willing to get out of there as soon as possible to discuss about them.

There’ve been lost of planning triangles (obviously), some nice exercises and guesses, tools, tips and tricks, funny accounts on why we shouldn’t be afraid to get inspiration from anything, reminders like “we people use emotions to make shortcuts, to decide faster” and “don’t ignore the creatives’ attitude towards the brand, when briefing”, links to stories and trends, lots of important distinctions between concepts...and there were so many other interesting things: after all, that’s what a great speaker is all about; even if he tells you basics you already know (and in fact, i knew most of the slides from his site), he does it so intensely and thought-provoking that you actually get out of the room with loads of thoughts, most of them which only had the speaker’s observations as starting points. In brief, basic maybe, but entertaining and useful for sure. Oh, and something else i really liked was his observation that we (Romanians) are not alone in our frustrations. Many, many parts of the world are facing lack of training and information in account planning, and that’s why planning is actually a worldwide (collaborative) community.

The thing i regret the most is that this course was only the skeleton of a three-day course, so there was probably so much more to learn from it, but well...hopefully John returns sometime and does something about it :). As for other local planners, i met a few new, and i’m hoping to meet a few more very soon, though i must admit it feels a little awkward to know that it took a foreigner to get us meet, talk to each other and maybe join for a drink, and we couldn’t do this earlier.

Anyway, huge thanks again to John (i’m so glad we could meet and so flattered :) ), and to those who made it possible for me to be there. pics as soon as blogger gets nicer to me and allows me to.

25 Jun 2006

depeche mode & joaquin cortes

i damn know i should write more about planning and communication and stuff, but the thing is i cannot help considering planning (or, better said, being a planner, and i think i've said this before) as a form of lifestyle, rather than just a simple job. Therefore, no matter how small and stupid all these "serial thoughts" might seem, most of them really help me build-up an experience and some ideas in order to both understand my job better, and understand more about people in general (consumers, communication, interaction, social engagements, forms of expression, reactions, entertainment etc.). Cause i feel that the more i read about planning, the more i need to acknowledge every single bit of the surrounding reality (this post from Pink Air really got me thinking about stuff). Anyway.

I had a spectacular end of week, with two shows which left me at a loss of words. The first was, of course, Depeche Mode's concert. Many people who are far more entitled than i am to provide details about the show have already done it on their blogs. So i'm not going to write too much about it. After all, "words are very unnecessary", and i believe most of the ones attending this concert can confirm it. I've never been a true fan of the band, but shows like this can really twist one around. I was lucky to be there, to be part of that atmosphere, to see so many people waving, providing their very own lights shows, so many people who behaved as civilized as possible and so on. And another aspect i really loved was the sky, which was perfectly clear and full of stars, despite all the long discussions about raining for sure and not being allowed with umbrellas and all that. It was just great.
Next, on Saturday, the amazing flamenco performance from Joaquin Cortes, within the JTI gatherings. Judging by the presentation read before the show started, i expected "Mi soledad" to be intensely dramatic, and to express the intimate melancholy of loneliness and introspection. Truth is, during the show i had the feeling that its intensity expresses an amazing power to live and enjoy life, to make the most of every single moment and to look for every detail in life which supports this enourmous desire to be on top of everything that's weak or might shadow the passion. A perfect combination of music and dance, of rhytm and passion, of jazz, classical music and flamenco, "Mi soledad" managed to make the thrilled audience repeatedly stand up to applause during the show, turning those two hours into yet another marvellous experience.
ps: and, as a small note, i went to "Capote" and to the Dutch Installation Art at MNAC on Sunday, and loved them both as well :D.

23 Jun 2006

sweet taste of summer

after working like hell for a while, i finally have some less-busy days. Which is great for at least two reasons. First of all, because i was able to read and learn a lot of new things (including catching up with some blogs, cause i hadn't done it in a while, which gave me a strange feeling of being left behind :D), and to make some plans from this point of view. Second, because i was able to go out again, which is great cause it allows me both to enjoy myself and to do some thinking on the spot. And that's how most ideas come to me, i must admit. Plus, after experiencing some rather funny and disappointing personal issues, i am very much in the mood for trying out new places, going to coffee-shops a lot, talking to people, observing etc etc etc...and movies...ah yes, movies...
So, anyway, yesterday i went to "Whisky", an enjoyable movie about which i will write on movie blog, with God's help.
And then i headed for Art Jazz Club, for an even more enjoyable Silent Strike concert, which proved to be exactly what i needed: the atmosphere was great, the company, very sweet, all those small details that make something close to perfect set in order and so on. I took lots and lots of tremendously bad photos, but all in all had a great time. i just need to eventually buy the man's cd.

Then, as we were on the way to my car, we stopped a bit on the Amsterdam terrace, for more pleasant talk about marketing and IBM and stuff and relaxing atmosphere. Going further towards the car, i noticed this on the pavement, in front of the Atheneum. I hadn't noticed before and i cannot stop wondering just how long it had been there, and who did it and so on .

A perfect ending for the evening was the great concert we stopped for in Green. Jazz e-scape reunited Tom Smith, Matt Smith, Vlaicu Golcea, Sorin Romanescu and DJ Vasile, who performed beautifully. The only minor problem was that i couldn't have a great coffee, as i would have liked to, cause due to some repairing, they didn't have any water in Green. But still, we couldn't help talking about how lucky we are.

oh, and as a fugitive thought, the place was so branded with Heineken, that it was for the first time when i felt that "meet you there" might actually make some sense :)).Depeche Mode tonight. Gallery/exhibitions day tomorrow. Boy, what a life! Heehah!

another bookfest to go

Of course, i totally forgot to write about going to BookFest. I did this on Saturday, despite my original decision, which was not to attend book fairs again too soon. I had taken this decision because it is so God damn frustrating for me to see all those books gathered in one place and realizing not only that i cannot have them all (and even if i could, i wouldn’t have the time to read them; life is kinda short, after all), but also that i’ve ended up reading so little nowadays in comparison with my reading habits not that long ago. However, my sister was too willing to take me there for me to refuse her, so there i was. Happily, the fest was organized in a different building from the one i was accustomed to, which made the air a little more breathable than in the past years. Crowded as usual, with lots and lots of books, publishing houses and special offers, with conferences and people who kept on buying books like crazy, this year’s edition of Bookfest was however the least disappointing for me until now. Probably mostly because of the location.

The thing i felt sorry about though was the little personalization from most publishing houses stands. While looking at the books exposed, it was becoming more and more obvious to me (and that might be obvious in book shops as well, but books in libraries are not always arranged according to publishing house, so...) that each publishing house is specific in some way when choosing the books to publish, when developing the covers, when naming the collections and so on. But their stands and manner of presenting the books was pretty much absolutely the same (the difference being, of course, the size of the stands). So maybe the big publishing houses were sure they’d sell anyway because they’re renown, and people expect them to have great books, and they do have great books indeed. But at least the smaller publishing houses, most of them with less mainstream books, books which were not very familiar to a common reader, could have used some gimmicks in order to introduce themselves in a different, attractive manner, not just use huge discounts. I’m sure it might be just me, but i would have liked a little more personal touch, honestly, because i happened to be wondering myself about a publishing house or their books in front of totally neutral stands quite some times (i don't know, i was looking for something to make me understand how relevant or particularly worthy their offer was as well, or at least a certain book in their offer)...dunno...does that make any sense?
I bought myself books like “Lovemarks”, “Clued in - how to keep customers coming back again and again” (Lewis P. Carbone), “It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be” (Paul Aurden), “The intellectuals” (Paul Johnson) and “Ghidul nesimtitului” (Radu Paraschivescu), as well as some magazines. And my sister was also happy about the books she bought. I loved the Catavencu promotional projections, as well as Rao’s (i hope i’m not mistaking) initiative to pay the entrance ticket for you, were you to buy books from them.
and I will update the post with more photos, as soon as blogger allows me to.

21 Jun 2006

why planners and curators resemble

Attending the DIY Self-Publishing thing reminded me about a sort of conference i attented and totally loved some time ago, at MNAC. The conference was held (of course, this assertion is a little extravagant, because it obviously wasn't that type of fancy or academic conference, it was more like a discussion between friends) some time in May, by French independent curator Leonor Nuridsany, who had brought the "Virus virus!" (pic stolen from alternativ) exhibition to Romania (most of it to UNAgaleria, to be precise). She spoke about her evolution as a curator, she presented her work, talked a bit about her status, as well as about the role that independent curators have nowadays. Of course, i was too lazy to write about my strong impressions immediately after the talk, so the few points that i remember now are far from covering everything she said.

Anyway, after discussing a bit the importance of labels, Leonor discussed a lot about the importance of making the visitors of her exhibitions feel strongly, the importance of creating an experience they will remember (does that sound familiar?). She explained how important it is for her to consider all sorts of elements aimed at creating a special, unique experience for the visitors, rather than stick to carefully arrange the artwork and present the artist's accomplishments coldly. All in all, she talked about involvement, about how much involving the visitor helps build a relationship between him and the art exposed. I remember her giving the example of an exhibition she organized in an extremely small space (a garden between blocks of flats, if i remember correctly). However, no matter how small the area was, she still figured out a solution to create experience (half by accident, of course): so she placed a chair five metres from the ground, at the top of a ladder along the building's wall, and you were supposed to climb up there, without any handlers or anything (for the sake of adrenaline), and once you sat on the chair, you had the view of a splendid garden. And while she was saying all this, i'm not sure why, but i couldn't help thinking about the (at least apparent) similarities between a planner and a curator.

In other words, Leonor stressed upon the importance of always thinking about context, architecture, combining all possible elements, and using all circumstaces possible in order to figure out the best way to show the artwork and create experience. Briefly, it was pretty much about using the power of context to build up the relation between art consumer and art. And i remember her having a vaguely poetic conclusion which i liked, something like: "sometimes the exhibition becomes the artwork, the curator becomes the artist".

What i shame i didn't write more immediately after the event...

20 Jun 2006

brief statement

a nice sample of personalization, as well as an attempt to hold a statement. maybe even set an example? The pic was taken somewhere on the Unirii blvd. (The text says: In order to have the look of a European capital, we need at least two elements: civilized people and a clean Bucharest)

15 Jun 2006

comics gathering

Do It Yourself Publishing and Comics Gathering finally here.

So i've been to the opening at OTA tonight.

12 Jun 2006


apparently i found out about John Griffiths coming to Romania way too late, and the tickets had sold out in the first two days. Needless to say how heart-breaking this is for me, so even though i know i don't have pretty much of a chance, i was just wondering: does anybody reading this have an extra-ticket or know somebody who might have an extra-ticket or something ? Please ? :((

5 Jun 2006

spread the good vibe

it's been a while since i've updated my blog, which is very wrong and i am sorry. i've just been really, really busy, although this shouldn't be an excuse. anyway...

Bogdana tagged me (thanks, Bogdana) with something really nice some time ago, namely happy blogging for a better state of the blogosphere. Probably something which might have the same effect on people as those "you are beautiful" stickers and installations i wrote about in one of my previous posts. And the truth is that i've been thinking about it quite a lot.

And several things came to my mind. First, depression is the second widest-spread disease in the world, following hypertension. I'm not sure why that happens, although i'm aware of several highly social plausible causes. However, the child in me thinks that most people just refuse to believe in feeling happy. And lack practice in extracting the joy from small things.

"Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things."
"I dare say you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

That's how i am, always believing, and that's why i feel happy many, many times a day. Sometimes for no apparent reason. Sometimes cause i'm so passionate about this planning thing and what i do, that i don't care what it takes for me to finish a project and so on. Sometimes cause i just go about walking, visiting places and exhibitions, attending unconventional conferences or meetings, going to the theatre or to the circus and so on and they all seem so overwhelmingly helpful and challenging to my development. Sometimes cause i'm impressed by some people or by some things they say; sometimes just because i can afford to take time to listen to people and learn from them. Sometimes because i realise i can and do learn from every single thing i'm exposed to. Sometimes cause i find so much pleasure and excitement in watching movies, that i just feel i could spend a lifetime watching more and more movies. Sometimes because i remember pleasant moments, sometimes because i live pleasant moments. Or maybe it's just because i consider myself really lucky.

For example, on Saturday i watched Lost highway, and was really enthusiastic about David Bowie's "I'm deranged" as the perfect car-track, which i really wanted to listen to while driving. Well, on Saturday evening, after some great time with an old friend, there i was, helped by the weather and the road, and experiencing wonderful feelings, which i tried to suggest with this pic (u will please excuse its quality, though :) ). And i remembered how nice it felt some time ago, when i was in Poiana Brasov, and it was damn cold, but cosy, and we enjoyed some delicious hot wine and we ate kurtos kalacs (or whatever the name is) and we listened to romanian folk music and the atmosphere was just perfect.Then, on Sunday, Big Fish was a total delight, about which you can read on my movie blog, and i realised how well two quotes from this movie suit me:
"There's a time when a man needs to fight and a time when he needs to accept that his destiny's lost, the ship has sailed and that only a fool will continue. The truth is I've always been a fool." and "Now I may not have much, but I have more determination then any man you're likely to ever meet."

Therefore, I FEEL GREAT, and if these words can spread a good vibe in any way, i'd feel even greater. And i now realise how much i'd like to try and contribute to such a "well-being campaign" in the physical public space as well. Which reminds me about "Pay it forward" and its suggestive tagline: "Sometimes The Simplest Idea Can Make The Biggest Difference."

Well, enough silly mummbling from me. Anybody who wants to help spread this good vibe further on, please feel free to! Cris?