Archive for July, 2009

15 Watch out, you’ve just been twinned

Posted in Uncategorized on JulyThu, 30 Jul 2009 02:11:00 +01001130am09 24 AMpThu, 30 Jul 2009 02:11:00 +010011Thursday 09 by nielsendinwoodie

When this blog began 15 weeks ago, I promised it would not describe the world from my personal sock drawer but look with eager eyes outwardly and search for meaning within the broader sunny vistas of society, the glittering panoramas peopled brilliantly every day by our crazy attempts at communicating meaningfully with one another. Since when, it hasn’t stopped raining.

So I’m off. Time for a holiday. Morpeth or Morocco? Life is full of tough decisions. Had actually wanted to do the whole UK staycation thing this year, just to see what it’s like spending two weeks inside a freshly invented cliché. But frankly, there’s only so much rain you can take. Summer after summer.

Which finally explains, I suppose, all those Twinned With signs you see on the road outside towns all over the UK. I see now they’re just a form of rampant escapism.

Personally I love the ludicrous arithmetic involved. Slough, for example, is twinned with Montreuil in France and Riga in Latvia. Well done. Except that’s not twinning. That’s being triplets. Don’t even ask about Leeds. It’s twinned with eight other places from the USA to Mongolia, which says something about how they teach biology in Yorkshire.

The point is, this twinning thing is just an excuse for the local energetic great and good to sun themselves abroad at the expense of all the drowned rats at home.

The best sign of the lot belongs to Reading.
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First off, quadruplets! You must be so very proud. Just to confirm: Dusseldorf is indeed that ugly city in Germany and Clonmel a town somewhere in Ireland you don’t want to visit. So that’s a fairly appropriate connection with Reading.

The other two places, you might not know so well. That’s because Speightstown is a coastal paradise in Barbados. If you’re wondering what it looks like, it looks like this. Yes, really.
reading copy
And San Francisco Libre is a small rural town close to the magnificent conical Momotombo Volcano only 50 miles from the capital of Nicaragua. Thank you, elected members of Reading, it’s good to know that comedy is alive and throbbing in the council chambers of royally wet Berkshire. Honest to God, you couldn’t make this stuff up!

Readers, thank you for reading here these past 15 weeks. Obviously the nonsense that has fuelled this column continues all around us in our daily lives. And you don’t need a bloodhound to find it.

Back soon.

Nielsen Dinwoodie
business messages people remember


14 How to make a name for yourself

Posted in Uncategorized on JulyFri, 24 Jul 2009 12:52:58 +01005224pm09 24 PMpFri, 24 Jul 2009 12:52:58 +010052Friday 09 by nielsendinwoodie

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Reader, I begin this week with some searching questions. Did you realise that the only way forward is Vorsprung durch Tecknik? Have you at any time in your life subscribed to the belief that Mr Kipling makes exceedingly good cakes? Were you aware that Martini can be drunk any time, any place, anywhere? Are you a believer that in order to work, rest and play then somehow or other a Mars bar will have to be involved? And, finally, have you ever found yourself ineluctably agreeing to the notion that love means never having to say you’re sorry?

Welcome to the world of ad nostalgia. A world when life was simple. When life was constructed for other people racily by smart young men with woollen ties and cigarettes in E-type Jags and too-tight suits in Wardour Street and life was all a-gogo. Sixties? Seventies? Money for old rope, mate? Thank you, two coils, please.

My own first day as a junior copywriter in Edinburgh began thus: good morning, here is half a desk, time for lunch in pub where Creative Director decides good idea to honour the day it being glorious twelfth, start of grouse shooting season, why not have twelve Famous Grouse all round, back to agency 4pm blootered out of box. Client focus? Couldn’t feel my own nose.

Yes, yes, what’s your point?
Advertising then was all about coming up with a simple, seductive three-word phrase. Re-read the opening paragraph above and count the three-word phrases from those celebrated advertising lines: vorsprung etc, exceedingly etc, any time etc. Except of course the one from Love Story, which only goes to prove how much more complicated a proposition that is.

Why is three the golden number? Don’t ask me, ask the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Or if none of the above is available, enquire just below of Alastair Campbell re New Labour winning an election on education, education, education.

These days the tyranny of the trinity is too glib, because we’re too sophisticated. We don’t respond to the contrivance of rhythmic repetition. Rather, we seem to embrace chaos. You Tube and Twitter are just two of the media ciphers of our day that pump out communication that’s raw and unrefined. You may have heard of viral marketing. It’s nothing to do with Tamilfu. It’s a way of selling by not selling, a means of getting a product name into the public intelligence without anything as crude as billboards or TV. Because the public prides itself on being street-smart, savvy, can’t dupe me, not gullible, don’t sell to me directly.

And how this relates to business is…?
Brand projection isn’t just about having a strapline any more. It’s more about understanding how your individual customers would prefer to see you and constructing personal ways of responding to each as unique. You can’t have one corporate identity any more. One size doesn’t fit all. You can’t have one universal marketing plan. Your customers love themselves too much.

So cue M&S music, sexy Samba Pa Ti by Santana, cue sexy voiceover girl to breathily say This is not just a blog, this is a dinwoodie blog. Doesn’t work, does it? Course not. And not just because the music’s naff and the v/o girl used to play the love interest in Ballykissangel, for which she hasn’t yet said sorry. It doesn’t work because you’re too smart, I’m too smart, we’re all too smart these days.

Nielsen Dinwoodie
business messages people remember

13 What SMART really means

Posted in Uncategorized on JulyThu, 16 Jul 2009 22:25:16 +01002516pm09 24 PMpThu, 16 Jul 2009 22:25:16 +010025Thursday 09 by nielsendinwoodie

Here’s a test. What do the following acronyms stand for? NIMBY, PLU, NOCD. If you know more than one of those, you’re either a cool, calm collected collector of socio-linguistic oddities or a rampaging snob. Perhaps you’re both. Perhaps you are a multi-tasker. Perhaps you simultaneously respect both the Freedom of Information Act and Data Protection legislation. How does that work?

Anyway, there’s one acronym that gets thrown about in business meetings every hour of every day. Just imagine: one phrase being bounced around the walls in thousands and thousands of UK offices every day. In the time it takes you to finish your favourite lunchtime sarnie, one phrase has spilled from approximately 220 pairs of managerial lips from Aberdeen to Truro. A phrase that everyone thinks they know, while getting it just slightly wrong. And that’s SMART.

As you are aware, all targets these days must officially be called SMART. It’s the same as school sports day, where these days every boy and girl is called a Winner – in case they cry and sue the school for child abuse. Targets have feelings too, you know. Let’s call them all SMART.

What SMART doesn’t stand for is: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Result-based, Time-based. Nor does it mean sad muddled anarchist reveres twitter. Is anyone still twittering? My fad spies tell me everyone’s so over twitter.

Get on with it.
Sorry. Of course. What SMART should stand for is: Specific , Measurable, Agreed, Resourced, Time-based. The difference is important.

Too often people eagerly anticipate their personal development review – sometimes called an appraisal by people who believe they were Hanging Judge Jeffries in another life – believing it a proper opportunity to discuss ways of increasing their job satisfaction. Which is what it should be. Which is how it benefits business. By first benefiting the people who are, what’s the phrase again, our greatest resource. But instead of discussing targets that they themselves want to achieve, a high proportion of people report they get lumped with something the boss made up.

Statistics prove (just in case you think I’m inventing all this in a hotel room in Abergavenny) that people with high job satisfaction are more productive. Surprise surprise. And the annual or six-monthly review really is the place where job satisfaction can begin to get engineered for the benefit of all concerned.

Targets aren’t smart unless they’re agreed and properly resourced so that you have a decent chance of making them happen, because you want to. Obvious?

Ok, point taken. And how this relates to comedy is…?
Give me strength.

InterviewSteveCole2 copy

Nielsen Dinwoodie
business messages people remember

12 The Missing Link

Posted in Uncategorized on JulyThu, 09 Jul 2009 21:59:19 +01005909pm09 24 PMpThu, 09 Jul 2009 21:59:19 +010059Thursday 09 by nielsendinwoodie

tube-strike-460_790481cCommunication takes many forms, not all of them suited to the Bakerloo line at 07.15 on a Friday. Of course, you know that travelling by tube is a form of Russian Roulette – only accident determines what the long grey barrel actually has in store for you each day, and as a voluntary human activity it’s sixteen shades of crazy.

But we have to get to work, so we wrap ourselves up in ourselves. Perhaps especially in this fourth anniversary week of the 7/7 bombings, we have hidden behind our personal barriers with even more resolve. We stare into the free celebrity trash mags that masquerade as newspapers, we crank up the little white earbuds to maximum seepage, we close our eyes, we sink into deep layers of silence, we count the stops.

Except this guy. This guy who could not have been anticipated under any circumstances. This guy in his fifties with steel specs and long grey Glastonbury hair, who has chosen on this Friday morning to wear a lanky green t-shirt that reads “Jesus made me kosher”. Perhaps he is a sit-down comedian paid by Transport for London to take our mind off things. Except he isn’t silent. And it’s round about now that I realise he isn’t harmless either. Because this is the moment, in a crowded carriage of dumb and drowsy commuters, that he begins… I can hardly believe it… whistling.

Not just whistling, but whistling in public. Whistling a merry tune. As if it’s 1958 and the skylarks are wheeling o’er the cornfields and PC Potter pootles past in his Noddy car. Whistling is a deeply insidious method of communication.

There is surely some subtle subterfuge at work when a man decides to impose his inner joy on others, but only the instrumental version of it. Either he’s keeping the words to himself like some immensely powerful shaman or he is too ashamed of his happiness to give it the full lyrical belt. Seriously, what makes it socially acceptable to whistle your head off on a tube train, but not to sing?

My father was a known whistler. In the privacy of his workroom at home in the 70s, sharpening his chisels and sorting screws into tobacco tins, he’d practise his Roy Castle triple-note arpeggios with extravagant panache. But he didn’t do it on trains.

Meanwhile, on the Bakerloo line, suddenly we’re at Oxford Circus and I leap through the doors and head down the white-tiled corridors to the Central Line and round the corners and down the short cut and onto the platform for Liverpool St. And then… you’ve guessed it. Gradually in the distance behind me, creeping louder and closer, the whistling like a spiralling nemesis approaches… until he comes to a stop exactly two feet behind me.

And how this relates to business is…
Business is similarly full of freaks of all description. Behind the screensavers in the purchase ledger dept, beige operatives may dwell who are actually spare-time geniuses with a secret: an imaginative concept that could maybe, just might, be articulated into a business plan that would sideswipe your competitors.

It’s same old embarrassing question. While we happily pronounce in corporate brochures and, worse, godforbidus mission statements (does anybody still have these things? I hear they fetch a pretty penny on Antiques Roadshow) about our people being our greatest resource, what we do we actually do about proving it?

Do we give our people a real chance to contribute ideas to the cause? A proper system, as opposed to a Suggestion Box-cum-shredder? Is possibility an option? Or do we prize conformity too much? Do our people believe they really have a voice? Or are they all just whistling in the wind?

Nielsen Dinwoodie
business messages people remember

11 Dolly Parton: a model of perfection

Posted in Uncategorized on JulyWed, 01 Jul 2009 22:03:04 +01000301pm09 24 PMpWed, 01 Jul 2009 22:03:04 +010003Wednesday 09 by nielsendinwoodie

A client writes amusingly to acknowledge receipt of an invoice I emailed him for a workshop: “I admire you submitting it as a Word document, allowing full edit rights to your customers. A real sign of trust and partnership!”

Well, of course. The spirit of honesty survives in many quarters, despite the best efforts of this insidious surveillance culture to turn every breathing day into an exercise in suspicion and fear. The presumption of innocence hangs by a thread. And lest you think I’m about to launch into some tedious conspiracy theory, remember: it’s not a theory. The reality of our societal decline into a sci-fi dystopia can easily be put to the test. Just ask your local friendly corner shop to play back the CCTV footage of you buying baked beans a week past April.

So it was great to see Dolly Parton interviewed on the box last night. What a gloriously unapologetic individual! She might eat Swarovski crystals as breakfast cereal, but that’s what makes her a shimmering model of transparency. This miniature, smiley, pointy person has never for a moment pretended that she isn’t a complete cosmetic confection. And that’s the difference between Dolly and the other dames in Scar Wars. Dolly hasn’t had her honesty surgically removed.

And how this relates to business is…?
Well, suppose you’re a highly trained professional in, say, civil engineering or the legal profession. Many years under your belt, letters after your name. Next, suppose someone imposes a career development opportunity upon you that requires no knowledge of the laws of torque or tort. For the next few days, you are to become a salesperson for your firm, contributing to a sales pitch or written bid. How comfortable are you now?

If the answer’s not very is that because you think professional integrity and selling are chalk and cheese? With the selling an especially ripe slice of gorgonzola? It’s a common view. We’ve all been stalked in shops – “Can I help yourself at all today, Sir, at all?” We’ve all experienced sleazy, greasy and queasy. We’ve all been hit upon by a bad practitioner.

If you’re ever involved in winning work, that means you work in sales. And when you put on the selling hat, as part of a pitch or bidding team, you know there’s a way to wear a hat so that it shows your face and your intentions. And there’s another way to wear a hat. See pic above, see pic below.

Don’t shy away from selling. You’re simply helping people to buy something they already decided they needed. If you package your proposition in a way that treats the customer with respect, they’ll reward you for that. Customers may not be right all the time, but they’re never a fool.


Nielsen Dinwoodie
business messages people remember