Bright Sparks: Picking up the pace

It is week 4 and our bright sparks are embracing the pace of advertising life.

Jonathan Webb – Creative Executive 

Well, here I am at the end of my fourth week!

The pace has certainly picked up; I feel I have definitely been in the thick of it, especially in my fourth week where we had many hours to put in to complete two briefs that were at different stages. It was hard work and stressful at times, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have still loved every minute of working here at PLBR and I look forward to the weeks to come with the same fervour.

I had a presentation given by Vineet Thapar from Digitas Health Life Brands, where he detailed all the digital focused work that they do, and it has made me very excited when I start my next placement there!

Vineet Thapar - SVP, Group Creative Director Europe.

Vineet Thapar – SVP, Group Creative Director Europe. Digitas Health.

Everyone is still extremely nice, funny, hard working and wonderful to be around up at PLBR, making me think it’s genuinely how they are and not just how they presented themselves when I started. It makes for a great environment to work in. They also still eat a lot of food, there’s always chocolates or cakes or something being shared out, which is always great.

I’m also looking forward to the Christmas party! Roll on week 5!

Amma Osei-Owusu – Account Executive

Looking back, I’m finding myself wondering how time has gone by so quickly! It seems to be moving insanely fast, I suppose when I consider the fast pace of the agency it’s befitting everything flies along with the pulse. That being said after the whirlwind of the first weeks the dust has finally settled. I feel as though I now have a grounded routine where I “sort of – kind of” know what to expect. I have the expectation that every day will bring something entirely new to learn. I feel as though I’ve been finding my feet here, I’ve been learning the ropes. Daily I’m met with a vast array of different tasks to accomplish, most things are completely new to me and each task I  complete brings  that sweet sense of fulfilment; the sort that makes you want to pause and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done but the learning doesn’t plateau. The thing about the LAB experience is it’s a bit like a decathlon, it’s a constant roll of events and hurdles to face and it’s all about constant progression. Already looking back I’m amazed that in such a short period of time I’ve picked up so much it’s like an intensive course where I’m actually able to apply the new skills I’ve learnt and that gives me a fabulous sense of achievement.

Amma at work

Amma at work

The thing that most distinguishes the earlier weeks from these latter weeks is the growing sense of responsibility that comes with being increasingly involved with clients. As an account manager, client interaction is undoubtedly the biggest part of the job. I’ve been gradually integrated into the conversations between the agency and external clients whereas in previous weeks I was solely engaged with internal communications. I’m so grateful to be involved in the process – to be the link between the client and their desired goals, this is major stuff for me!

Part of getting stuck into the role of an account manager means constantly accounting for finances; total project cost, out of pocket expenses and so forth. It also means tracking the development of projects right from the first brief, estimating cost and raising job numbers, warranting that time is allocated appropriately, constructing and ensuring timelines are met, ensuring the client is not just satisfied but is happy. We are required to do that little bit extra in order to be successful. Here at Saatchi and Saatchi health we build meaningful relations with clients this means they see us as an extension of the team and not just an agency, these are just some of the things I constantly have to be thinking about.

Finances, finances, finances

Finances, finances, finances

Considering I entered into the LAB without the same background in healthcare that others in this profession possess, the amount I’ve learnt about the healthcare industry within the scope of time is gastronomical. I feel like I’ve suddenly delved into vast world that I previously didn’t not realise the breadth and depth of. There are so many complexities to it. Working on different accounts means I’m constantly introduced to different conditions and drug treatments. The variety in the types of clients we work with is also what makes this job so enjoyable. One minute I’m working with a client that produces an anticoagulant for stroke treatment and in the very same day I’ll also be working with a client that specialises in incontinency care. They all have varying needs and wants. In addition to that there is the tricky and sticky “red tape” restrictions that regulate healthcare advertising. The task presented to us to us to rise above the challenge is quite a big ask, but from my time here already I’ve learnt that the Saatchi mantra “nothing is impossible” couldn’t be more true when it comes to healthcare communications. To overcome the obstacles set before us it is important we approach them at different angles and perspectives. My unique contribution I believe, perhaps stems from my unfamiliarity with this world. My eyes are wide open just like a child in a sweet store I’m overwhelmed – filled with awe by the mass and scope of it all, but seeing the bigger picture – the holistic picture is so vital in this industry, and asking the questions my curiosity probes me to ask, may lead not just to greater understanding for my sake but also to further innovation in the approach to healthcare communications.

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About the ‘New Guy’

Well I have been asked to write a PLBR blog, which I graciously accepted without knowing what I wanted to talk about. So I hope the following ramblings and incoherent thoughts suffice.

As the ‘new guy’ I am often asked about what I did before winning the creative role from The Lab. So I suppose this blog post will not be dissimilar from a bio piece, but I will try to include some advice or talk about something of actual value along the way. Try not to get bored.

I suppose for want of a better word; I am an artist and always have been. From moulding foul smelling Play Doh into sculptures, to having more child-friendly anti-toxic paint over myself than the paper – I was always told I would make a great artist. I wanted to be one. Not the society hating, pretentious, rude and hard to work with ‘tormented genius’ role that looks down on other people (which seems to be the norm these days). Rather the kind that likes to create for beauty’s sake.

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So with that in mind, I did a year towards a degree in Law. And even though I found criminal law to be interesting, I knew it wasn’t enough to hold my attention for the rest of my life, so I applied for art courses whilst working in a bank. Not in a branch, but in a ‘magic building’ where the real work happened. It was pretty dull. I eventually started my degree in Fine Art and it was 3 of the best years of my life. I drew, painted, sculpted and slept a lot. I had a particular affinity with lens work and branched off in the latter half of my second year to specialise in film and photography. My first film was awful. It’s 3 minutes long, involving me sharing a banana with myself. Black and white silent film where I stole some music from a Charlie Chaplin film and slowed it down to around 80%. Poorly edited…It went on to be showcased at the Whitstable film festival. A lot of people shook my hand saying how much they liked it. Damn.

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I also love photography. Some of the shots I achieved with a really bad camera (included) I think are a testament to how I compose a shot. I’m really happy with them so I hope you think they are cool. I am now saving up for a 5d or a c300 or something similar.

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I have written a lot of screenplays, a few of which I was told to pursue by one of my lecturers – a film-maker who has had commissions with Film 4. So that’s a thing. Maybe if I plan it out well enough I can get a few short films done before I’m thirty. One of them I did in my final year at university. I was the producer, budget handler, head of casting, location scout, set designer, camera operator, director, runner, gaffer, cinematographer, editor, colour grader and I set up the screen for the ‘I AM art exhibition’ it was shown for. I will get funding and a crew next time. It was selected for a 6 week screening at the Turner Contemporary Gallery. An honour. I am not posting a link to the video as I don’t like it any more – sorry!

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I suppose I had better talk about something of value. A cutesy go-away-and-think-about-this type deal. Hopefully some of you are still reading, I know this is long. I wouldn’t read it. Anyway, I’ll call it ‘inspiration’. Here goes.

Aesthetic is important and wondrous. Not a day goes by where I don’t look up at the stars and get lost in the vastness (oh look he is a pretentious arsehole). I have seen Hubble space images projected at an IMAX, as well as footage of them installing the Hubble – all narrated by Tom Cruise. I highly recommend it. That’s what inspires me. Knowing how finite and insignificant we are against the vastness of what we don’t know. Seeing exploded stars in 12K resolution – dead, like they had stuck a pistol in their sun spot, with colourful matter like star brains that are smeared across the space wall – is awe inspiring. If I ever figure out how to transform that beauty outside of space photography and into a gallery I’d be a millionaire. It’s taken a horrible bad poetic turn, but I include a picture of a poetry ‘thing’ I won in school. See it? Great young minds. See, right there, credentials. I was a cocky kid in school, but least I had evidence to back it up. These are the ramblings I told you about at the beginning, remember?

If I had anything to say of worth, it’s to find your muse. Find something or someone that inspires you, and hold on to it. Look at it every day, even if it’s as stupid as looking up at the stars every night. Go and hold your head up high – walk out the door every morning knowing you’re going to kick arse that day. That’s what inspiration does; it’s the little spark that starts it all. Go get ’em you brilliant bastard, I believe in you.

Jonathan Webb – The New Guy.

2 weeks on the job and our diagnosis is…

Following our lab initiative, two amazingly talented individuals have now joined our team. We thought it was only fair to give them a chance to tell you how they are both settling in.

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“Some future industry leaders are born. Others are made in The Lab.”

Jonathan Webb – Creative Executive

I have arrived at the end of my second Friday now with the creative team at PLBR and what a two weeks it has been.

I have already been included in numerous projects, which has given me great insight into our current work and the clients we are dealing with. Initially the NAUBE (Numerous Acronyms Used By Everyone) were difficult to grasp, but such is the nature of the healthcare sector I suppose. I feel I have assimilated smoothly into my new job, largely due to the fact that everyone on the PLBR team have been incredibly accommodating, friendly and an all-round great bunch of people.

Any difficulties? Adjusting to working as a team. I have worked as part of a team in many capacities before, but never in a creative one. I have always been the lone ranger artist, I come up with concepts and I know how I want it to look, so I make it that way. Coming to a team environment I have to reign in how I think it should look, and contribute to something to how we all think it should look. I’m getting there sooner than I thought.

JonI feel I have definitely contributed, I feel I at least add a different perspective when looking at things, which is always a great addition to a team of already creative people. I got a few strange looks when I broke out the watercolours instead of designing something digitally, but the end product of what I made people really liked, and was used to show the client one of the concepts, so I’m happy whether I was being placated or not. Taking it ‘old school’, I might just help start a campaign in pastels, not pixels.

All in all, I have loved my time here so far and I don’t want it to end! To know I’m getting paid to do something I love, with really great people is a clichéd ‘dream come true’. Two and a half hour creative brainstorms seem to fly by, and I walk out of the meeting room with a buzz. I feel that I have barely scratched the surface of what I can introduce into this industry. Hopefully, given time, I can shine like the ‘bright spark’ The Lab was looking for.

Amma Osei-Owusu – Account Executive

So the morning of the 28th of October had dawned. And since finding out that I had won a place on the LAB, my mind had not stopped buzzing about all the excitement that lay in store for me. I’d frequently find myself ticking off the days and hours in my mental calendar anticipating my first day, and alas, here it was and not a second too late or a moment too early. Reminiscent of a child on Christmas Morning I found could barely contain my excitement; evidenced by the fact that I was up literally at the crack of dawn! No, I hadn’t lost my mind, it just didn’t occur to me at this point that perhaps I should get some more rest, as far as I was concerned I needed to prepare. Training as a territorial army Cadet had taught me to leave nothing to chance and nothing was going to be left to chance. A woman on a mission I set about executing my regimented plan, dogmatically working out how I was going to manage and dodge any potential mishap and unexpected cannon balls that might threaten to throw me off. I was determined to have the best possible start. I was preparing for what I saw as break of a new dawn and oh boy was I ready for it. And what of self-doubt? Quietly extinguished with a burning yet precautious confidence. I Love a challenge I re-assured myself, bring on the LAB!

Amma

The following two weeks flew by like a whirlwind, there was so much to process so quickly, a storm of buzzwords and a hurricane of acronyms being thrown with jargon language flying between them. The task of swallowing them up seemed mammoth at first but with the support of my new colleagues I became partially fluent in this new alien language. I must have been asked a 1001 times about how I was finding my experience, caught off guard and still basking in the shock of it all, I’m pretty sure I replied 1001 times that It was “erm good ..Yeah amazing so far” it seems concentrating in picking up this new vocabulary had conversely limited the range of my existing vocabulary.

Also, I have never been to so many meetings in such a short space of time. From catch up meetings with the Account Executive team in fabulous Soho, to breakfast meetings with Keelie and lunch and learn/account overview meetings within the office, the interaction between staff is fantastic. As well as discovering that I’ll never go hungry here (because of the endless supply of food) I’ve found the communication infrastructure within this agency to be so incredibly efficient, which is vital because with so much going on concerning various clients and projects things could quite easily get extremely manic very quickly. However with effective dialogue streams opened across all sections that is; from the clients to account managers, from the account managers to the creative team and from the creative team to the studio, the process of work progresses very efficiently. In short, things get done and get done well. I can’t wait to discover what else I will learn from this experience, there is so much to pick up on its great. I guess I’m just a sponge soaking it all up.

Bike blog

“Eh?! Paris? On a bike?! Isn’t that quite far?” The surprise in my voice was plain to hear. Visions of breezing effortlessly through stunning French countryside were immediately replaced with fears of exhaustingly sweaty hill climbs, saddle sores and collisions with rusty old Citroëns.

“Nah, it’s only 285 miles from London, and we’ve got four days to do it.”

And so, on a hot and sunny August morning five of us assembled at Marble Arch to begin our journey to the Arc de Triomphe. It became clear at this point that the group (I shall refrain from calling it a team – that would suggest some level of cohesion, organisation and prior experience) had vastly different abilities:

  1. Craggy – dedicated fitness fanatic, regular and successful triathlon competitor whose strength lay in road cycling
  2. Me – relatively fit, fairly regular cycler (but only to work and back) and completer of one triathlon (finished highly placed but virtually dead by the time I crossed the finish line)
  3. Tim – regular football player and occasional mountain biker
  4. Coxy – sporadic gym-goer and very occasional mountain biker
  5. Ross – concentrates on weights in the gym, thinks cardio is Spanish for cardigan, rides bikes regularly, but only if there’s an engine attached to it

Tim and I aside, everyone had travelled down from Yorkshire for the trip. Coxy was to borrow my Dad’s old bike (a 1989 luminous pink British Eagle) which I’d dug out of my basement and fixed up for the occasion. Alas, no amount of titivating would stop the bike looking like it was owned by Penelope Pitstop.

Full of enthusiasm we departed into the London Friday morning traffic, which was pretty slow going. Eventually we emerged on to the open road and headed for Canterbury.

Every so often we’d stop to wait for the slower riders to catch up and it was dark by the time we arrived at our YHA hostel. I specify YHA, because until we arrived Coxy had been telling us we were staying at a YMCA hostel. I’m sure the YMCA is a wonderful organisation, but we were a little worried that we were staying in a friendly gentleman’s establishment complete with moustachioed men dressed as cowboys, Indians and bikers dancing in the bar. As it turned out, bar the bunk beds being marginally larger than a mid-sized Post-It note, it was a lovely place.

Saturday morning I woke, well rested and brimming with vim, vigour and excitement at the day’s adventure which lay ahead. And then I tried to get out of bed… only to find I had transformed into a frail geriatric overnight. I ached in places I never knew existed. The only part of me that didn’t hurt was my teeth.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I rolled on to my side in an attempt to elevate my decrepit carcass from its temporary tomb and was greeted with a rear view of Ross’ lumbar region. As if this wasn’t disturbing enough, due to his lack of padded cycling shorts and seat cover he was busy anaesthetising his sore areas with ibuprofen gel. This put me off the idea of breakfast. Possibly until next February.

Getting back on the bike was tough. I’d have been more motivated by the thought of attaching my tongue to a car battery with a nail gun. I was broken and we’d only done 70 miles. But once we got going it was great to be back on the open road.

And then we hit the A2. If you’ve never been on it, it’s a nice straight dual carriage way which is perfect for zipping down to Dover in a car. But cycling down it in the rain is beyond terrifying. Cars flew past us at 90 miles an hour, missing us by a few feet. Lorries thundered past engulfing us in clouds spray which blinded and soaked us through to the skin. We were all pretty relieved when we got to Dover.

Having made it through customs without having to show our passports once (that’s the way to illegally emigrate to France, in case you were contemplating it) we ventured up the ramp to the ferry’s vehicle bay. Now, in a car the smooth, oily parking area of a ferry is a pleasant place to be. On a bicycle with slick road tyres, however, it’s more like trying to cross an ice rink on stilts. A fact perfectly illustrated by Tim as he “tapped” his brakes in an attempt to slow down. Both his wheels shot sideways like they’d been hit by a freight train and he clattered to the floor. Once we’d stopped laughing we did stop to see if he was OK. Nothing fractured but dignity, fortunately.

We emerged from the ferry at Calais not into blistering continental sunshine, but horizontal rain that was being flung in our faces by a wind so vicious I half expected the Eiffel Tower to fly past at any moment. This did not bode well for our progress. We’d only done 20 miles in the morning, and with a couple of hours taken up by the ferry ride, it was already lunchtime and we had nearly 60 miles to do.

Three and a half hours, several brutal hills and many wrong turns later we limped through the constant headwind in to a very small town and decided we should stop and take stock. We found a bar for beer and food. It wasn’t good news. Navigator Tim had led us rather astray and although we had covered around 30 miles, not all of it had been in the right direction. It was nearly 5pm and we still had 40 miles to go. At the rate we’d been going, it would take us until at least 10pm to make it.

After much negotiation (in GCSE level French) with the locals, a nice chap agreed to take us to our hotel in his minivan and stick the bikes on his trailer. What a cop-out. Still, it did give us a couple hours in the bar to drown our sorrows.

The next morning after a nutritious Maccy-D’s breakfast, we set off in stunning sunshine. This was what we came for. Quiet roads eased us through quaint villages, vast fields of rapeseed, sunflowers and poppies. We pounded the pedals, leaned in to corners, scaled hills, freewheeled descents, chatted, joked, mocked each other for our inappropriate outfits. We spent half the journey with our tops off (much to the disgust of passers-by) and acquired tans worthy of a fortnight in the Caribbean. It was brilliant. In fact, aside from ingesting the dodgiest hot dog I have ever laid eyes on at a roadside café, it was pretty much a perfect day. In fact we made such good time that by 5pm we were sat outside a bar in a picturesque square in Beauvais, giant lagers in hands and even bigger smiles on faces.

The final morning we set off in search of Paris. Now you’d think somewhere that big would be pretty easy to locate. Apparently not. We visited several industrial estates, many dead ends, what looked like a disused clay quarry (which appeared to be utilised to grow illegal substances), a couple of dumping grounds and a traveller caravan park where bare-chested, heavily-tattooed men emerged from their trailers and eyed us with the kind of expressions that suggested they wanted to use our faces to break in their newest batch of knuckle dusters.

We were rather relieved when we arrived at the Arc de Triomphe. We were less relieved when we actually had to manoeuvre ourselves around it – an act that is risky in a car, and downright suicidal on a bike, especially if you didn’t know the rules of the road… which we didn’t. After the customary photo shoot we set off across the ceaseless, chaotic circular flow of traffic, hoping that nothing hit any of us. In the event nothing did, but I believe that’s more down to luck than any cycling proficiency on our part.

The whole system seems preposterous to me, but oddly it works. By “works” I don’t mean that it’s safe or organised; on the contrary, I’ve never been so convinced that I was going to die since I woke up after an entire night of drinking whiskey. But we made it, found our hostel and treated ourselves to a couple of beers. And then a couple more. But we’d earned it. 270 miles of self-propulsion in 4 days.

As I sat relaxing on the Eurostar the following day, grateful for the protection the padded shorts and seat cover had afforded me (the same could not be said for Ross, who was not at all comfortable in the sitting position), I mused as to whether I’d be up for doing a similar trip again. The unequivocal answer was “Yes”!

But not just yet.

Just in time

We were invited by the Ideas Foundation to help a couple of A-level students, Ewelina and Kasia, enter (and hopefully win) a competition. For those who don’t know, the Ideas Foundation is a charity aimed to help underprivileged teenagers into the advertising industry. The charity had managed to obtain a real-life brief from 20th Century Fox for a campaign promoting the upcoming Justin Timberlake film, InTime. Fox would actually develop the winning students’ concept while The Metro would donate £200,000 worth of free media to run it. It was an invaluable opportunity for anyone trying to break in.

For us, it was a great chance to immerse Ewelina and Kasia within the creative goings-on of our agency. Both girls were really shy to begin with, but as they got deeper into the project, their confidence began to grow. We treated their project very much like we would any other: they were asked to bring ideas to the table and develop those which had promise, while collaborating with other art directors, copywriters and even some account people.

At the end of the short week (it began with a bank holiday), Ewelina and Kasia had to present their concept to a panel of judges, along with all the other students who had entered the contest. They absolutely nailed it, shocking us with the extent of the transformation they’d undergone from super-reserved teenagers to super-natural advertising folk.

After presentations were given by the other students, who had been working with the likes of AMV BBDO, BBH, Lowe DLKW, WCRS and Creative Orchestra, we bit our nails as the judges deliberated over a winner. Low and behold, Ewelina and Kasia came out on top, winning the incredible prize of having their work developed and shared with greater London, an opportunity that any advertising creative would dream of. It was a really great experience for everyone involved, and showed how creativity can spring from anywhere, even from within a school system that is not necessarily known for nurturing creativity.

When the film comes out we’ll post another blog with a bit more about Ewelina and Kasia’s project.

Click here to learn more about The Ideas Foundation

Click here to read about the film

Written by Nick Robinson, PLBR Junior Designer