Connect London 22nd Nov - 12.10

Content is the most overused word in the modern communications glossary, and to every agency, broadcaster, publisher and creative, it means a different thing, and that’s before we have discussed how consumers choose to view and engage with content. So, I thought it might be interesting to try and define what it means and how we can help it develop moving forward, and i’m doing it in front of 300 people. On November 22nd, JSR Content is hosting a panel discussion at the Creativepool connect conference in London’s iconic Truman Brewery, featuring 5 heavy-hitters from the content world from the BBC, Facebook, Ogilvy, JOE Media and The Economist, hopefully kept in line by yours truly. We’ll be discussing how each of these ‘publishers’ understands and creates content and how their viewers consume it. We’ll touch on budgets, creativity and ponder if it is just a flash in the pan, or the creative output that will be with us for the long haul, and inevitably I’ll be hilarious and swear a lot.We’d love to see you there or check out Creativepool’s website to see if we answered the question, What the fuck is Content?, or were just the warm up act for Sir John Hegarty.

For tickets to Connect London click here

Between the devil and the deep blue sea....

Clearly it’s hot, it’s hotter than Venus in London today and everyone is claiming it’s impossible to work, to get to work or to get home from work without suffering some kind of heat stroke. But let me tell you, in comparison to spending a day at home with the kids, going to work is a walk in an air conditioned park.
This weather has turned my kids into brain-damaged monkeys off their tits on crack, and thus, spending any time with them induces both hot and cold sweats. Even the dog who will usually follow them round in the hope of a scrap is hiding from them, somewhere in the house, currently reducing my most expensive boots into something that even the master cobbler at Grenson would no longer recognise.
So i cycled into work, and now, as the sweat now pours off all of my special crevices, and my little corner of the office is hotter than the devil’s hairy ass-crack, i am already planning how to get back to the house of pain and join Truffle, remorselessly chewing on shoe leather under the stairs and hoping no one ever finds me till October rolls round again.

Why the hell would anybody choose to launch a new content agency in 2018?

Why would anybody choose to launch a content agency in the middle of 2018???? Type content agency London into google and 291,000,000 hits come up. I got tired of counting how many specific agencies there are doing it when i got past 500.

Every PR Agency, Ad Agency, Media buying agency, one-man-band, two-man-band and client, yes even client for god’s sake, say they can make content so surely the market has reached saturation point?
Nobody can want so much content can they? Of course they can, which is why we have just launched JSRContent, a new player on the block with some rather interesting credentials.
But this isn’t about us, it’s about what the hell content actually is and why it’s gone from zero to hero in terms of marketing comms over the past 5 years or so.
Why have Nike contributed to over 90 hours of content marketing in the past year and around 9 minutes of traditional ATL creative?
How come people, are happier to watch moving content in a square shape barely 2 inches across on a device that lives in their pocket, rather than a mega-sized, mega-quality screen in their living room?In 2012, the global marketing marketing director of PepsiCo stood up at Cannes and declared that he saw the future of 30 second TVC’s as a trailer, or gateway into in his brand’s on-line and digital content. Oh how we laughed, but no one’s laughing now, as ad revenue tilts from ATL in favour of digital advertising for the first time in 2018.
Actually Facebook and Google are laughing.
So how and why has this happened?
There are clearly lots of answers – technology, millennials (it’s always millennials), but the one that seems to strike home with me, is the innate human demand for stories and storytelling. From our origins around campfires and caves, the human need to tell and listen to stories is an essential part of our existence.
I read or make up stories to my kids before they go to sleep, I don’t give them 30 second bite-size trailers.

As people, we devour engaging tales of adventure, love and humour. We want to be engaged, to be taken to another place, to let our imaginations soar, and that can only happen over time not in an instant.
Traditional TV advertising, which, lest we forget, has only been around since the 1950s was defined by the gaps between TV shows, and forced into bite-sized pieces of salesmanship. When I worked in TV, I kept asking the question, ‘why are we making 30 second and 10 second trailers?’, and the scheduling team would always answer, ‘because that is the length of the slot we have been given’.
Trying to break out of this hole we dug for ourselves was exhausting and frustrating. TV worked in defined time schedules so our work and the advertising that also existed between these gaps was defined.
But no one can tell a great story in 30 seconds.
That doesn’t mean that some advertising hasn’t tried, and there have been some astonishing adverts in the past 60 years, but often the ones you remember weren’t 30 second spots – Guinness surfers, Dunlop Tyres, John Lewis Christmas. They all existed at longer lengths and were then cut down.
Storytelling needs space in order to breath, not a ratatatat attack of images or words designed to batter consumers into buying a product.
The advent of digital media has allowed us to break free of these time constraints and evolve a longer form storytelling model that often provides true engagement.
Of course not all digital content is 1 minute long or longer, we also work with 6 second stories, 15 second instagram clips and 3 second bumpers, but we now can tell stories with breadth which was rarely possible before.
So back to the question of why start a content agency in a market so over-saturated people can barely breathe?
JSR content has been formed because the photographers and illustrators we represent have been telling stories everyday since the agency was formed in 2006.
Apparently every picture tells a story and we believe that our visual approach through photography and illustration gives us a unique heritage and experience to translate that passion and skill into moving image.
Who knows, in a year’s time we may all be doing something else, but for now, lets enjoy the ride.

Feeling the Craic

I’ve just spent a couple of days in Dublin on a shoot for a very famous alcohol brand, and as I arrived in the fair city, I pondered on the changes that had taken place since I last visited 26 years ago.
From what I could remember Dublin used to feel like a British city, a slightly greyer version of Leeds or Liverpool, but with significantly more pubs; but now it felt like a much more European city than I realised. A crazy cross between Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Prague, vibrant with life on a Sunday night as if no one had to worry about the next day’s work.
I forgot how pretty the Georgian architecture was, how friendly and open the people were and how wonderfully musical the accent is. It was relaxed yet full of energy, and lots of people smiled. No one smiles in London. It was lovely.

Never trust someone who either doesn't smoke or doesn't drink.

They are hiding some much more batshit crazy vice.

Does a dog in the office increase productivity or destroy it? pt 2

Is a happy workplace an effective workplace? Common sense would say yes, but there is a difference between happy and effective, and sometimes happy creates a sense of wellness and positivity that means you can’t always see what needs to be done. Imagine working all day as the ecstasy kicks in. It might feel nice but you are highly unlikely to finish that e-mail.
I’m not advocating an authoritarian work environment, but sometimes, having a deadline, being concerned about your role, ensuring that are competing with your colleagues can drive you on better than joy.
But forget all that, it was nice having Truffle in the office, despite what Jamie says.

Does a dog in the office increase productivity or destroy it?

Recently, Truffle, my giant Goldendoodle puppy spend the day in the office. Understandably there was a concern that she would distract everyone from work, but equally we thought that the positive vibe of having a loving, friendly, cuddly hound wandering about would produce enough endorphins to ensure that everyone was working better.
Was there a correct answer? We think it was positive, as everyone was happy (almost everyone), but does a happy workplace equate to an effective workplace? we’ll ponder that one tomorrow.

Why your kids are smarter than you pt2

We have a French au pair. Last year we had a French au pair. Next year we will have a French au pair. We are also lucky enough to have a house in France where the kids spend all summer. As a consequence of this my son has an awesome grasp of french.
He can say bonjour, pain au chocolat and Disneyland Paris.
He’s an idiot.
But: he also has a half Japanese girlfriend (he’s 6, they are just good friends…) and now he’s come home speaking entire Japanese sentences, and criticising my accent when I try to copy him.
Clearly the lesson here is that when you want to do something and you are in love, you can pretty much do anything you put your mind to.

Putting the con in content

Apparently every agency in London does content. PR agencies, ad agencies, branding agencies, media agencies and now even photographic agencies! So how come all of these different styles of agencies are suddenly experts across this specific skill?

It’s because no one is really sure what content means and what it really is. It’s the broadest church in all modern comms. It can be a 6 million pound spot for Johnny Walker featuring international movie stars or a behind the scenes gif grabbed on a mobile phone by the office junior. It’s the wild west out there with no rules and boundaries, so in theory all of these agencies can be experts.

It’s the brief that truly defines who would be the best team to work on a project, so putting my client hat on, I’d like to have as many options as possible every time I began a project and work out who was placed to answer my question. This is the most exciting and conversely the scariest time to be working in this industry. And that’s what makes it truly thrilling.

Why your kids are smarter than you.

Frequently I’m confronted by a creative puzzle. A bit of strategy that doesn’t make sense, some words that won’t hold together, or an idea that just won’t flow. That’s natural, creativity isn’t an ever-open tap, it comes and goes like the wind.
I have various ways of kick-starting the process; i go for a ride on my bike, I take a shower, I watch a bad movie that i’ve already seen, but my current favourite method is to ask my kids.

They have a way of cutting through the nonsense and asking the questions I’m afraid of asking.
Why is that lady eating a hot dog in her pants?
Why is that man saying boring stuff?
Why is that dog talking when dogs can’t talk?

These are all very fair questions that for some reason no-one at the client or agency ever thought to ask.

Recently, Isaac, my 6 year-old, designed an obstacle course in the lounge for him and Truffle, the dog, to traverse. He created a design, and mapped out the cushions based on it’s plan.
I’ve pictured it above.
It’s shit.
It’s essentially just a line of pillows and cushions and fails in its basic task of providing any obstacles.

But I loved the way he spelt obstacle course.
It’s so wrong yet feels so right.
It’s in the ballpark of phonetically correct, but whatever it is, I want it to be way obstacle course is spelled for all eternity.

When you get stuck trying to write something, ask your kids, or a friend’s kids or your neighbours kids to write it for you, and I bet they’ll provide you with the inspiration to get your brain onto gear and write what you really want to write. There’s no harm trying….