Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Brand Karma

A few years back, one of the few people in Asia that I noticed was subject to a fair amount  opinion in the offices, bars, karaoke joints, award shows and massage parlours of advertising (maybe not the last one) was Craig Davies. A lot of people had a lot to say about Craig when he was Regional ECD for Asia and Africa.

But until he interviewed me as Global ECD for JWT in Knightsbridge back in 2007 I had no opinion. But I got lots now so listen up. First off it was a very tough interview. The questions got harder and harder not easier and I couldn't believe that he knew more than enough about my rapidly moving world to assess whether I was any good.  For example a  memorable question was 'what do you think of Andrew Keen?'. This was in the thick of all the social media Web 2.0 hype at the time that is pretty much mainstream now that Facebook is something most people can relate to.

Difficult to be moderate on that question. Well difficult for me as I can't stand Andrew Keen. I replied that he was more an opportunist peddling shallow arguments for a living than having conviction. 

Risky move. Craig was both reading his book and by any definition is not only a professional but probably one of the most senior and accomplished professionals too.

I didn't stop there (do I ever?). I said that the cult of the professional was responsible for millennia of disastrous decision making. That professionals were often intoxicated with their perceived talents and that  the ability to self produce, present or publish instantaneously and globally had shown that amateurs talents were astonishing us time and again.

Anyway, I walked out of that interview not knowing if I'd said the right thing or not but somewhat comfortable that at least I'd been myself. I got the job after a bunch of other interviews and then got to see both Craig and the Guy Murphy (the Global PD) in action , working  and collaborating together. In my experience a lot of the heavy hitters who get to the top of the agency business have eaten so much crow by the time they've shinned up the greasy pole, they have some of the most formidable political skills in any business period. But no longer really love great ideas or often don't know what a kick ass contemporary idea even is. 

That wasn't the case with JWT and one of the reasons why I have such strong faith in the agency is that I was lucky to see people like Guy and Craig who are quite understated, still quite young and really enjoying their work in action. Quite refreshing, and I like to think that JWT"s improved reputation and ongoing successes is something I spotted a little early on from reasonably close observation in London.

In any case, Craig has now relocated to his home country of Australia, and has started something that is both simple in it's aim, but is I believe an important idea. I wont say any more as there's an introductory video for you to watch. This ties directly into what I feel is a huge opportunity for brands (corporations) to shake off the lethargy of undifferentiated, link tested, politically correct but morally stultifying blandness and start to stand for something. Something I wrote about more at length over here. Watch the video and come join us on Brand Karma if it strikes a chord.