Category Archives: Creativity

Why working part-time or how to be quicksand-proof?

Have you noticed that Big Fish like General Motors are creating more and more part-time opportunities within their company? Have you heard all the talks about pension benefit cuts? Is the shift from the full-time economy to a part-time economy apparent enough to all of us now?

The assembly line was just the beginning of automating human labour. But thankfully certain things like imagination and communication cannot be automated.

With this in mind, I decided to slowly get out of the quicksand-like economy. Although one is not advised to move fast when trapped by quicksand, it was about time for me to leap.

Being in an office with people I loved and a job I liked has been amazing and I am very lucky to have found stickee. But my insatiable feeling for exploring the world was taking me over week after week. It would not have been right to stay there: gloomy, pensive and absent-minded. Dangerous mental uprisings crept in: ‘Why stay at one place when I could work from every place in the world?’

‘Why booking my personal time for 25 days a year? If life is really that short, is it not much more normal to own 365 days a year instead of 25?’

Reading ‘The Leap’ By Robert Dickie, I realised I only did a very mini-leap towards my personal freedom. Besides courage, the journey to my self-directed future depends on my faith, continued focus and actions.

Skills

According to Dickie one should start from their ‘God-given’ design: skills and passions. We must pursue a career that is in total alignment with our skills – this is like swimming in a river with a powerful current. For me this is writing in its various forms and applications.

Direction

When leaping, it is dead important to have a direction. To visualise it better, imagine Google Maps. Where are you? Where do you want to go? Which route would you choose?

And while the route is optional, the starting point and the final goal are pre-determined by your own capacity, talent and discipline.

The deathbed moment

Another important question is: ‘How would you like to be remembered?’

I like advertising. It is about finding a playful and creative approach that leads to measurable results. I think it is a great way to communicate brand/social messages and reach out to the world. But fast-forwarding to my deathbed, I would not like to be remembered with that great Coca-Cola campaign I did (as a cog in the system). It simply would not have added value to my life.

I would rather be remembered as the person who wrote books, shared insights and spent quality time with their family. Somebody who made people smile and contributed to peoples’ lives positively by telling stories, showing love and sharing harmony.

Banal but beautiful, right?

Several months later, after attending Vipassana and after a very enriching trip to Sicily, I still have some fears when it comes to writing. ‘ The Leap’ made me identify these ‘anchors’ clearly:

The mental anchors

Mostly self-imposed. Why according to me things would not pan out? I highly recommend writing down all the reasons you think would prevent you from reaching your goal. Some of them would definitely make you laugh at a later stage. Then work on dismantling each of them. Dickie talks about two types of locus – external versus internal. The former is all about the external circumstances that would affect your accomplishments (passive stance), while the internal is focused on actions and self-coaching (‘I will do it if I work hard & smart’)

The financial anchors

All sorts of debts or a lack of a freedom fund (savings). Be debt-free, as simple as that.

The physical anchors

“There is no special pill that can undo a lifetime of bad habits” so taking care of yourself comes first. Surely the best way to stay healthy (which I know) is doing sports.

The spiritual anchors

Faith is the firmest foundation one has. Whether one is religious or simply believes in their own powers, faith means strength. Since The Leap would consume all your energy, it is vital to give your aim every ounce of faith. No one else can or will do it on your behalf.

The heaviest and the rustiest anchor is this of regret. One could not live a life sitting with their back turned to the future, looking at the rearview window. Start from the deathbed and carry on to forming your daily tasks towards the big goal. Having a long-term plan is advisable, although I would personally like to call it a sketch, a vector. As Mike Tyson said: ‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.’

How many punches in the face do we need to start acting?

*** For more inspiration on similar topics, please visit http://smilyanp.com/?cat=9

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There are people who live by helping others. Not for money, not because of their religious instructions, not for society’s vanity, but for pure self satisfaction.

What does it take?

*Vast goodness capacity/resource

*The inspiring skills

*The mental powers

*The unconventional thinking

So I have been looking for the right term to name this occurrence for quite some time.

And I recalled Amelie who comes across a box of a little boy hidden at her place. Her immediate thought is to take that step and to make the difference. To research, to act, to find this supposedly middle-aged man and give him back his childhood. When she finds him, she rings the phone booth he is next to. He finds the box in the booth and tears up. He: the young, fragile, dreamy boy in a body of a mature man then goes to the nearby bar and tries to reach out to Amelie. She stays shy. She needs nothing but his smile.

We tend to construe goodness as a favour to the world, while the only people it favours is us.

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Ameliesm.

I want to ‘profess’ Ameliesm with both vigour and patience. But then every person has their own Ameliesm to follow. Some would become therapists; others would turn a blind eye to social problems but would be devoted parents…

My Ameliesm bubble is social advertising. Not plaintive advertising. Not drowning in a sea of schmaltz today and tomorrow have obliterated everything from our memory. Memorable campaigns that make us turn the page.

Social advertising to me is not only art, but art that helps. Strategic art. Not making Person A buy product F because they would become more appealing. (Only for 5.99 of course)

What made me tick? Attending Cannes Lions 2012.

I truly enjoyed the virtuosity of the BBH’s Three Pigs advert , the simplicity of Coca Cola’s print advert (Ogilvy, China) and the crafty blast of JWT’s China Maxam ad.

But there was an extra something for the Publicis  Netherlands ALS campaign , the Down’s syndrome advert (S&S Italy) , the Israel/Palestine blood relations (S&S) ….

And that step, that extra something is the dream and the comfort that I eventually found my little Ameliesm spot.

Leaving you with the first social advert I fell in love with.

Death to death penalty

Amelism

Her Highness: the application

Applying for advertising jobs is a truly adventurous experience. The application is the cream of job hunting as you are free to do it in your own time, space, pace and atmosphere. It is a gut feeling process to get the answers of two questions:

  1. Is that agency right for me?
  2. Am I right for that agency?

Ad applications are in stark contrast to just ‘sending a CV out’ policy.

Based on my experience, I have ‘categorised’ the types of applications I have come across so far:

1.The blast: ‘We have invested time and thought in making it engaging to you, so please return the favour.’

Top interesting question:

‘Elvis has been found alive and well and 10 stone lighter in a shack in Hawaii. What advertising campaign would you use him for?’

2.The feeble application: ‘We are a big agency and we would rest on our laurels because we have deserved it. No need to sell our creativity to a bunch of newbies’.

Top uninteresting question:

‘What is your favourite brand and why?’ (Really?!?)

3.The hit-and-miss application: ‘’

Top killer question:

‘Tell us about yourself.’ (Quite nasty…)

The road to an advertising agency is paved with good intentions, isn’t it?

Lastly, I’d like to share a story heard from a drunken (so sincere) creative director at Cannes Lions 2012:

‘My secretary gazed at me with immense surprise when she saw me trashing half of the printed applications she had left on my desk. I explained: ‘We don’t hire people without luck.’’

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Tell me a story!

They say storytelling and advertising go hand in hand. But I believe storytelling and LIFE are glued together.

To persuade your parents that you ARE actually sleeping at a friend’s house and not at your boyfriend’s – storytelling.

To excuse yourself for not being able to present today – storytelling.

To tell your wife why you didn’t have time to wash the dishes but had time to see your buddies – storytelling.

All in all – to intrigue people on a daily basis – storytelling.

People don’t have time to be bored. Busy people.  They crave excitement, dynamism and surprise.

Almost every little girl and boy I knew in my childhood had a list of questions they were asking to potential ‘relationship’ candidates. As children don’t know the shackles of society and norm, the questions and the answers went as follows:

‘Do you like cats?’  ‘Cats? They are super furry and disgusting! (broken hopes, off the list)

‘Do you like cars?’ ’Why are you asking? Do you have a car? You can’t have a car, you are too little! (‘She speaks too much. And she called me little.’ Off the list)

Some were taking it to another level:

‘Do you believe in God?’ ‘No, I’d rather believe in the Devil. I’m the Devil himself’ (a miserably failed attempt for a witty flirt)

My relationship entry test was just a request: ‘Tell me a story.’ Logical! I haven’t read the common fairy tales till the age of 8. I was brought up with tailor-made stories. My Father would suddenly stop and ask me: ‘So what do you think happens to Mother Pitta bread and her 5 children Pitta Crumbles?’

So you can imagine the horrified faces of my potential boyfriend candidates. Most of them wisely ran away. Those who stayed to struggle were a few and weren’t blessed with a generous sprinkle of magic storytelling dust. Some learned with time, some were sucked in the supermassive black hole. Yup – that’s what happens to people who can’t tell a story. Remember Scheherazade? I believe she had the two qualities it takes to be a great storyteller – imagination and discipline. Imagine telling a story every night for 1001 nights. She must have come from a military family…

——–

When I found the Man who asked me to tell him stories – all fell into place.

‘Tell me the story about the mischievous squirrel Rally’

‘The squirrel Rally had lived divinely until she got bogged down in gambling with nuts. Her inappropriate jokes weren’t perceived as ‘sweet’ from the severe croupiers and the anteater gamblers.  One day, they caught her cheating on the animal-friendly roulette and brought the case to court. The judge – a respectable, slim pig, had just finished its muesli breakfast. He examined critically the mischievous squirrel Rally and sentenced her to a special kind of imprisonment:

‘I have been watching you closely for years. You have an impressively mischievous CV. So I reckon the worst punishment for you would be to be good, caring, polite and honest for a year! Silence! No objections.’

Rally was rather puzzled. As she wasn’t aware of half of the words Judge Pig mentioned. But they all sounded appallingly.’

(…)

Finally, I want to share a video which sums up all that needs to be told about storytelling.

The best advertising person?

That’s a tough one.

Advertising is brimming with charismatic people. Yes, they might be arrogant and yes they might be alcohol and even drug addicts. But ultimately, they tend to make wry comments, be coolly self-possessed in situations in which common people would go crazy and stay interesting as that is a big part of the game.

Throughout my humble advertising student path, I’ve admired lots of ad people. Special adoration prize goes to Kevin Roberts (CEO worldwide of Saatchi&Saatchi) with whom I somehow magically arranged a personal meeting in 2010. ‘Magically’ is a little far-fetched definition. I just chased him and his poor secretary via email once I knew he was coming to my university to talk to MBA students.

The meeting was a keep-your-feet-on-the-ground one. Mr. Roberts was polite, witty and inquisitive. I showed him some ideas; he told me what he thought, what I should keep and what should be omitted. We talked of languages, advertising and even of Peter the Rabbit because of his Lancashire origin.

He really means what he says. He says he values communication and young people – boom – he responds to emails and blog post comments.

During a lecture with him dedicated to future communication models he suddenly stood up and interrupted the student presenting at that moment:

‘How are we talking about any form of communication when there’s a desk between you and me?’

He removed the desk aside and went back to his seat.

The student seemed to feel he had been put on the spot. But that wasn’t the case. The desk ‘blocking’ the communication was there. We could all see it. Mr. Roberts just expressed the unvarnished truth.

But as we all know – ‘Frailty, thy name is woman’…

Grand Prix adoration prize goes to Sir John Hegarty (BBH). He sets a shining example of what magic and intelligence can bring when intertwined. His eyes full of mischief and unorthodox humour inspire me always.

Unfortunately he never got back to my email in which I kindly offered him my help for his new wine project. Yet I am well-mannered and would post the link here. (http://www.hegartychamans.com/)

Despite Mr. Roberts’ honesty, bravery, courtesy {and so many more} AND Sir Hegarty’s eye for design, creativity and fashion, the best ad man is the one I encountered when I was 10.

Karlson on the roof by Astrid Lindgren (author of the very favourite read ‘Pippi Longstocking’)

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Karlson is a master-teaser, self-confident short man with a propeller on his back who lives on one roof in Stockholm. He truly believes he is the best at everything he does and has explanation for every life-situation. He lives a dynamic life, accompanied by the Smidge (the little boy who lives in the ordinary house below Karlson’s roof palace). They undergo plenty of adventures including family disbelief in Karlson’s existence, babysitter chase, thieves catching etc.

 

Karlson stands out as a fictional character in such a formidably intelligent manner that (surprise-surprise) it gets banned in the US.  (http://www.dn.se/kultur-noje/astrid-lindgren-hade-forebild-i-usa)

The common criticism was that Karlsson’s antics would incite young children to disobey authority, and mistrust and fear babysitters (in fact the babysitter chapter is one of the liveliest scenes in the whole ‘celebration of creativity’ book).

For the ‘marred’ childhood of people who were deprived of the magic of this book–

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Karlson-Roof-Astrid-Lindgren/dp/0192727729/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1361467206&sr=1-1

It costs as much as 2 VKs on a Friday night out.

For me, he is the best ad man for several reasons:

  1. He has a propeller on his back. Every advertising person needs one of those to manage the excessive workload.
  2. He doesn’t try to imitate anyone. He creates the trends.
  3. He twists everything in his favour. He lies in such an elegant manner that even when you find out you are deceived – you are pleased. (Applies to cosmetics & perfume advertising the most)
  4. He manages excellent relations with partners (the Smidge) and declares openly ‘war’ to his oppressors (the babysitter who is utterly narrow-minded). So bluntness is apparent.
  5. He is smart with numbers and bargaining. Here is the story:

Karlson: Hey, Smidge. I don’t suppose you’ve got any caramels left?

The Smidge: No. Just these three fudges.

Karlson: Hmm.That’s three. But you can’t split three. Any kid knows that


[Karlson takes one of the fudges and swallows it]

The Smidge: No… !!!

Karlson: NOW we can try and split.

6. He does not need days off to brainstorm. He could simply get out of his house, straight on the roof, enjoy the view and create.

7. He possesses the inquisitiveness of a child.

8. He separates the good from the bad.

Why advertising

If you happen to be a fortunate advertising graduate or a graduate in banking, geoscience or enigmatology with a particular fondness for advertising, that question would inevitably be asked at a job interview. Some interviewers would go like ‘Why the hell advertising’ to make it sound artier…

To my surprise, I always answer in one and the same way. Well, sometimes embellishing the story – spice is always needed.

It was a matter of upbringing in my case. My Father has always challenged me in everything I do – annoying yet helpful. So whenever I had to beg for extra money for presents, I got: ‘Make it yourself.’

Wonderful parenting technique but what if the present turns out really bad… (quite possible, I thought.)

To that, my Father had a ready-made answer: ‘Well, you will have to think how to make it look good … with words.’

So this is how it all started. Crafting things was never my strong point. Word play, on the other hand, has always been.

To please my Father, I made my attempts though:

Attempt 1: The Hairpin ButterflyIMG_5848

Attempt 2: The Big-mouth Bird  IMG_5869

It proved hard to ‘sell’ the Hairpin Butterfly to my Grandma though.

‘That is a butterfly made of hairpins, there you go and happy new year!’

All she could see (like most of us, I guess) were illogically destroyed hairpins.

The only possible way forward was to ‘target’ her at her ‘Achilles heel’.

She was very respectful of my other Grandma’s opinion. We all know about the Two Grandma Competition. Which of them would buy more stuff, would be a better cook, and ultimately would be more loved. So if I got my Other Grandma to like that present… maybe she was going to give in and finally like it in public, before all the Family.

Other Grandma enters the room. I wink at her. We always had the Secret Language. Plus I was helping her to gain some extra competition points. The mutually beneficial bargain.

‘Look what I got from Angelina’, Grandma 1 said with the least possible enthusiasm.

‘Spectacular! Contemporary art. They talk about it in the news all the time’, stepped in with her widest smile Grandma Saver.

(Auch. That must have hurt. Art and news mention on one line… bonus points)

‘Yes, yes… Now I can see! Although I wouldn’t call it contemporary – it is much ahead of its time. Glimpse into the Future Art is how I would define it’, Grandma 1 changed the strategy in the danger of losing a lot of ground to Grandma Saver.

They carried on for ages, but as I got what I needed out of Grandma 1, I didn’t calculate any more points for the day. So their efforts were in vain.

I didn’t get to think about this exercise before I had to apply for a university course. Back in the distant 2008.

And it hit me. Good with words, tactical thinking and unconventional imagination. There must be a degree for that.

Advertising and Marketing in Lancaster University. That doesn’t sound bad at all.

But it also sounded better than it was.  (Maybe to follow in another blog post)

Always worth thinking about the roots of the initial inspiration.

I am extremely grateful to my ever-interested and hence ever-interesting Father for the awkward exercises throughout my Childhood.

I am also eternally indebted to my Mother and Best Friend for interrupting me in every second sentence, so that now I keep it all short, simple and if The Copywriting God is with me – powerful.