Category Archives: Social

The wizard of Uz

When Dorothy and the gang of metal, straw and fur reach the great Wizard of Oz – he has the simplest solutions to their problems.

Scarecrow wants a brain – boom, you have it, but here’s a diploma.

Cowardly Lion wishes for courage – boom! Here’s a medal for bravery.

Tinman pleads for a heart – boom! A medallion with a ticking heart.

For every ‘I wish I were’ – expression we just need a tap on the shoulder: ‘You can!’

My grandmother suffered from multicellular sclerosis. One day she stopped spelling rightly. Several months later she couldn’t recognise the letters. There were two choices – to let go or not to let go.

Oblivious of what exactly was going on, what her abilities were at the moment and what the doctors said, I suggested we played games with her. We started with small quizzes, through hangman, to trying to write more complicated words. I didn’t know the limit, so I was dispersing courage generously onto her. It didn’t all turn out brilliantly and it wasn’t a story with a happy ending.

Later, I understood it is not the wizard of Oz – the fellow who would occasionally praise us, encourage us and inject us with inspirational ‘can do’ stories. It is the Wizard of Uz – the starting point.

The inner-dialogue which connects Uz to ourselves. A connection which I believe ‘digital world’ weakens considerably. We are now seemingly connected to all the rest of the world; we have thousands of real friends and always somebody willing to listen, comment, like, share and re-tweet.

In the past months, I’ve been researching whether there is a way to better connect to myself, shout down the unnecessary, intrusive voices and opinions and turn to myself with trust. Getting ready to listen to myself turned out to be really hard, as I have lost my own voice. With my eyes closed, I could only hear expectations and opinions of others. But one of those voices actually managed to be of help and present to my attention the option of non-religious self-discovery practice, called Vipassana.

Due to reasons outside my scope, I wouldn’t be attending Vipassana in 2013. But I successfully provide myself with what I’d like to call ‘A digital Vipassana’. This encompasses the deletion of tools like Whatsapp, Viber and Facebook as primary sources of confusion at this very moment. Conversations about consumers’ overload of choices are endless – have you noticed there’s no such thing as ‘pause’ or ‘offline’ in Whatsapp? How about the heart-breaking goodbye message of Facebook “Leo, Kate and Joseph would miss you”…?

Yes, I should feel very guilty for ‘leaving’ all my friends from The Public Laundry.

Now I am living the old kind of life – sending postcards and letters, talking to people on the bus, actually opening my mouth to ask for directions and sometimes I even find myself playing with the sand or sitting on a bench, doing nothing.

My brave prediction is that 20 years from now (if not less), there’d be workshops for ‘Face-to-face communication’ where you would become certified if you’ve managed to talk to 10 other people for a month. Of course, some would question the face-to-face bit.

“Nah, they probably mean Facebook-to-Facebook here.”

Face-to-face is already starting to become vintage. Let alone you-to-you communication. It’s ominous.

“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”…

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Hee-haw!

8 September 2013, Questura Trapani, Sicily

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Time has stopped in Trapani. It’s Sunday noon. 30 degrees and not many sunstroke volunteers.

Silence gets broken with a deep-throated scream. A fourth character has arrived to the piazza. He wears no T-shirt; he beats himself with fists in the stomach. Then pitifully cups his face in his hands. He mixes sounds of sheer desperation and revolutionary battle yells.

I don’t know Italian but I understand he suffers.

He stops and shouts his lungs out before the Questura.

He lies down. Then he crawls. Again he lies on his back and starts ‘making an angel’ without snow. Now rolling over and crying.

Time has started again. Tick-tock.

Piazza starts enlivening. Children are curious, parents – worried.

What is bothering this delicate Mediterranean soul?

Why is the pavement his church and the Questura his enemy?

Italian language knowledge – free, I guess:

One of his three twins hasn’t been admitted in a kindergarten. He must now work part-time and babysit.

He blames the Questura for not chasing him often enough to use condoms.

Or

Luigi has kicked him out of his bar at noon and interfered unlawfully with his human right to drink and be understood.

Or

His daughter has left with the neighbour’s son who had once stolen an apple from their apple tree. 20 years ago crime with an irretrievable loss.

Police car arrives. Now there are 7 anxious faces looking at the screaming man. Nobody takes action.

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One policeman says I guess: ‘I arrest you for your feelings’

Or

‘You have made time in Trapani start ticking again. You are arrested.’

Then the policeman offers him a hand to stand up.

Another outburst of fury overflows the piazza and its spectators.

A cigarette is suggested. This works. The stranger takes an orator posture.

He explains himself for 5 minutes. It all sounds like his heart has been broken. But Italian does sound like it all the time.

A policeman, who has stayed in the car, gets out and tells the stranger something with a mild tone of voice, smiled.

Maybe they have found the 20 years old apple so there is no reason to blame the Questura.

An ambulance parks in front the building. Excuse me, the institution.

Is the ambulance the problem solver for this miserable citizen?

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Because of us, the spectators with various motives, maybe, the Stranger is not picked up by force and thrust in the police car.

Italians watching the scene are clicking their tongues but are still present, although disapproving.

It has now been 40 minutes of psychological exercise for everyone.

The Stranger meets the doctors with a story. He starts crying and yelling and rolling again across the piazza.

Suddenly one doctor starts doing the same.

The infected doctor exclaims in a fit of rage. He starts pointing fingers chaotically at the Questura.

After the first infected doctor, the same happens with several policemen to our surprise…

The whole piazza is now full of half-naked, bellowing citizens, posing questions to the Questura.

That would have been a very wonderful ending, right?

The chain reaction of rage, honesty, expressed grief, sharing and maybe even decisions found.

But it ended in the expected way. The stranger was driven away from Questura, Trapani, we all have gotten back home.

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A similar memory was evoked. Pacing through fields at noon.

Time has stopped. A donkey brays from all his donkey heart and soul.

‘Hee-haw!’

And I was 4, I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Now I’m 24 and I still can’t.

Was it hungry?

Was it sad?

Or was it just a donkey thing?

Is it only human to collapse emotionally before the Questura?

Maybe ignorance is bliss.

Hee-haw!

How to successfully pack four and a half years of your life?

I don’t mean the luggage restrictions.

I don’t actually mean anything material.

The truly ‘heaviness’ comes from the emotional luggage. All the ups and downs. All the frowns and smiles. How do I pack that? How do I leave the UK with ease…

First step was working with the negativity I’ve accumulated so far. In order to process the sticky situations, I smiled at them and traced down what they had given me rather than what they had taken away from me.

Coming from the proverb, ‘A sin confessed is half forgiven’, I established: ‘A negative experience laughed at is ¾ positive already.’

Second step was to contemplate and focus on the splendid moments. Thus doubled them.

Third step was to step back from the above exercises and have a thorough look at my UK chapter.

Interestingly, we seem to have had the perfect relationship. (What you see is what you get)

My relations to the UK entirely fit my Life formula: be together until you grow together, if not, just grow apart.

If it wasn’t for the UK, I would have never woken up to spreading my wings. And I would have never appreciated which is the country I love and why I love it that much. Beautiful Bulgaria!

I feel I have so much more to explore than being anchored in the UK. Open to the newness, to the real challenges ahead is what triggers the cosmopolitan in me.

I’ve heard people saying it was ‘unwise’ to pack my bags and leave the UK. The argument: Because I had the best possible options in the UK and because I had graduated there.

 

I refuse to accept life is a routine, a complex of pre-set actions one has to complete. Or have a spine of a jelly bear.

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The flower of life is change. So to water this ‘endangered’ flower, apply to places outside your comfort zone and ‘toss a CV’…

So bye-bye UK! It was a twisted yet appreciated pleasure.

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

What the UK service industry can learn from Slovenia?

Believe it or not – saying ‘thank you’ in every 2 seconds with the fakest possible smile and giving away plastic bags for free isn’t the best service industry policy.

The service industry in Slovenia is light years ahead of the UK’s.  Slovenia is independent only since 1991 but has developed an amazing ‘treating people’ know-how. They got it right – customers are human. Not cash machines out of flesh.

I tried to get a shot of the many waiters, bus drivers or shop assistants who were incredibly polite. But you know what happens when you shoot in direct sunlight…

Three short stories:

  1. Shuttle bus driver

He not only spoke fluent English and handled our luggage as if he was placing a newborn in the car but also introduced us sincerely to Ljubljana:

‘You might be bored from the press in Ljubljana. Here it’s really safe. It’s not like in London, where you open the newspaper and see who killed a number of people and then next page who else he killed and so on. Here we only have domestic murders… you know… something like husband kills wife, wife kills husband.’

We were lost so he called our hosts from his private mobile phone to double-check the location and walked us to there.

The shuttle bus driver model:

smile                              engage                            show extra care                  give business card

2. Apartment hosts

Day 1: Although not mentioned in the description, our hostess brought us breakfast coming from the other part of the town. Just for the sake of being nice. That simple.

Day 2: We got a call from her. She was super anxious about our stay because there was some repair work on floor 4. We were on floor 1. She offered us to move to their hotel in the very centre of Ljubljana to get a proper rest.

Day 3: The toilet got blocked for exactly 10 minutes. We thought we would let her know. She offered us to move to their place. They were ‘going to stay at friends’’for the next 2 nights.

I doubt Slovenians have as thick books on crisis management as Brits do. I’ve been living in the UK for 5 years: got mice in the house – nobody came for 10 days, got a leaking radiator – no attention for a week, got a crappy shower – nobody changed it. That simple. Why face a problem, when we can ignore it?

3. Waiter in Gostilna pri planincu

Scene: Customers waiting for their order to be taken. The waiter tries to take it in Slovenian, German, Spanish and English. Then he figures out they are French and apologetically says: ‘We don’t get many French people here. Refer 10 more customers to the restaurant and I will start learning it.’ Then it turned out they all spoke Italian and so did the Waiter.

All of these occupations are perceived as vocations.  ‘Hvala’ (thank you) was not a mechanical response.

Service industry in Slovenia is an art. An art which emptied my pockets and gave me plenty of food for thought.

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TV is the decisive medium

TV edit

With the emergence of digital and interactive advertising, discussions about TV advertising have become really heated.

Many claimed TV is an outworn advertising tool. It was no longer efficient, cost-effective and result-driven.

Then I read Andy Nairn’s blog and a sentence about TV stuck in my mind. “There is no such thing as a passive bazooka.”

I never had a one-sided opinion on the matter. I just like impressive advertising and big ideas.

I truly understood what I thought of TV as a medium thanks to a Pakistani woman.

I ended up living with a Pakistani family for 4 months.

As a Western person I had my preconceived views that it was going to be weird.

Their warm attitude, humour and originality wiped off all I had thought beforehand. Relaxed and explored.

Roshan (the woman) knew I had a boyfriend. So she would occasionally ask me whether I am getting married sometime soon.

One day he came to town and I wanted to meet them. Her husband (Imran) was busy doing something else.

The tradition wouldn’t let Roshan meet my boyfriend if she is not accompanied by her husband.

Imran let her come. A great act of trust in both her and me.

Roshan examined my potential husband. They talked about education and profession. I wasn’t quite listening. It was their moment.

Roshan’s face turned red with worry. She wanted to talk to me in private. Her lips twitched with care.

“He told me he doesn’t have a MA degree. But you DO! You should find somebody better!!!!”

“So what? We love each other. He does something he loves. What’s the issue with that?”

She carried on saying he didn’t deserve me because we were not equal in education. She said he was handsome but that wasn’t important. He didn’t have a MA degree and that was a crisis to her.

Affected by that speech, I told him he needs to get a MA degree. He gave me a very perplexed look and disagreed with me.

Going back home to Roshan I felt I told my potential husband off without a reason. To compensate for that injustice, I went straight to Roshan and told her:

“Look, you are my friend, you have to understand a degree isn’t everything. Probably his friends told him I am not good enough for him because … for example…. He was on TV giving interviews… and on the radio… And I never appeared on TV!!!”

“Wait… He was on TV? Really? Oh my God, he should find somebody better than you!!!”

Touché.    🙂

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.