Monthly Archives: May 2013

Stupid Things Clients Say in Digital Advertising

imagesIt’s been 7 months since I jumped the Traditional Advertising Ship to join Digital. (Almost enough time to pop a baby). In this time I’ve learnt a few things about ‘The Client’ in Digital.

‘The Client’ in Digital is the same as ‘The Client’ in Traditional Advertising. Only more scared. Selling work is harder because our clients know they need digital advertising but want to get it over and done with like pulling a plaster. They hold onto budgets even tighter and hand them out like the Old Woman in The Shoe who had so many children she didn’t know what to do.

If you thought your clients in above-the-line were little bullies, in digital they’re worse. They can be thoroughbred dictators who’d prefer you to just do and not question.

When giving feedback, they start off by saying how they’re definitely not tech savvy but by the end of the meeting they gather so much momentum in their own belief that they are right, it almost seems as if they are channeling Steve Jobs himself.

We all know that words can drop from a client’s mouth like A-bombs in Nam and in digital it is just the same. These are a few of the stupid things I’ve heard clients say:

1. “I hardly use the internet. My son does though. But he’s always on the internet. The thing you’ve got to ask is why would I go to your website?”

2. “Who has time to use Skype really?”

3. “Well Skype is just about phone calls actually.”

4. “My friends only use Skype to talk to friends and family that live far away.”

5. “That idea is just too big. Our marketing department doesn’t have the resource or time for an idea like that.”

6. “We want something quick and manageable. This requires longevity.”

7. “We want something easy to implement. What about user-generated content?”

8. “We are not a content company.”

9. “You must realise, this target market is not digitally advanced.”

10. “Yes, you guys would do it…but you’re in advertising.”

11. “No…I wouldn’t drop what I was doing to chat to Ryan Gosling on the internet.”

12. “Please list ALL our terms and conditions on the banner.”

13. “The copy is too clever. I just want something straight.”

14. “I don’t want a viral video. I want a million-rand TV ad.”

15. “Can we just have some banner ads please?”

16. “Can we just have some banner ads please?”

17. “Guys between the ages of 30 and 40 are dads. They don’t have time to be online.”

18. “If this was on Mxit it would be great. I’d give it to my helper and she’d spend all day on it.”

19. “I’m having my hair done. Can she come and present to me here?”

20. “Make the logo bigger.”

I know that advertisers say stupid things too. But I also know that when I go to a doctor and he tells me that I need a blood test, I don’t tell him to rather give me a colonoscopy. It worries me that as the marketing and advertising industry grows older, we’re not growing wiser and our clients have become less and less trusting of advertising expertise.

They’re terrified of digital but instead of handing over some of the brand custodianship, they toss out the breadcrumbs and hope to get lucky. The Marketing Director has become brilliant at using the ‘sample of one’ survey – himself. ‘The Client’ always thinks their online engagement is the benchmark for the entire target market. And they still look at digital as the redheaded stepchild.

To my fellow advertisers in above-the-line, take comfort. ‘The Client’ is the same hairy beast in our neck of the woods. So what do we do? Maybe it’s time to gather our reputations as rebellious, crazy, wild advertising people with big ideas. Let’s stop being so damn well behaved in meetings. Let’s bring back the boozy advertising lunch, let’s take all ‘The Clients’ out to lunch and tell them we’ve all had about enough of ‘The Client’.

We would rather have partners. We would rather have good fellow parents who are ready for the fears, the joys, the difficulties and triumphs in raising a brand. We would rather make meaningful, memorable work than banner ads. If there was ever a time to respect the big ideas, it would be now.


Goodbye Vuyo

Vuyo-Mbuli6This morning I was greeted by the shocking news of Vuyo Mbuli’s death. Shock gave way to the immediate need to say something on Twitter and Facebook and eventually the need to say something gave way to tears.

No, I don’t know Vuyo personally. I’ve never even met him. I only know him as the talented, jovial newsman I invite into my lounge every morning. It’s my ritual. I get up, take a shower and while getting ready for work I listen to Vuyo and Leanne on Morning Live like thousands of other South Africans every day.

So why was I crying like I just lost an old friend or an uncle?

I guess it’s because you watch a TV personality through a screen doing the same thing they do every day and hope you’ll catch a glimpse of their human selves. I did. I caught a glimpse of a very positive individual – someone who knew how to wake South Africa up with a smile. Even on the difficult days.

I liked the way he tried to break down the stiff demeanour a morning news show can have. I liked the way he always commented on Andile’s shoes. I liked the way he took time to greet us in so many different languages and the way he unashamedly proclaimed Morning Live to be “The best breakfast show in the world”.  And I liked it when he ended every broadcast with ‘Sharp Sharp’. Even if it was hellava cheesy.

Vuyo was a newsman of the people. He seemed to be in touch with the Everyman of South Africa. He knew how to get to his interviewee. He knew how to pursue the tough, uncomfortable questions just as we at home began asking them in our minds. And he always did his homework. But apart from his polished presence and genuine interest in his journalistic subjects, he just seemed to have a gentlemanly touch and a fine passion for the work he did. And that is always rare.

I will miss you Vuyo. Tomorrow morning we will all rise but we may refuse to shine because without you being there to salute the start of the day, it will be very difficult.

Goodbye Vuyo. Hamba kahle. Alvida. Totsiens. Khuda Hafiz. Tsamaya Hantle.

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Letting Go


As we grow older, we learn to hold on tighter. We become experts at holding onto fear, guilt, worry, anger and cynicism.

Letting go sounds so easy. It sounds like opening a window and letting the curtain billow in the breeze. But it isn’t easy. It’s more like swimming up to the surface to breathe in, despite being pulled under by dark and slimy sea creatures. If it were easy to let go, we would not walk on this earth. We would float above it and glow with eternal buoyancy.

Holding on offers a strange comfort. It is what is expected. It is not unchartered territory – you’ve been here many times before. Keeping calm and carrying on is not as easy to navigate. Because most of the time ‘carrying on’ takes place without witness and all the effort that goes with it is under the surface.

We are expected to feel guilty for making mistakes. So we gather our mistakes in a guilt menagerie and stand back and admire their ugliness. When the anger builds up we let it brew till it boils over and sticks to the surface.  Cynicism is like the stray pet that arrives at your door unannounced and you just can’t say no to its big, droopy eyes. And fear? Fear is the worst because we learn to live with it so well that we develop its accent and soon forget our real voices.

We also hold onto hope. And just because ‘hope’ is a smiley-faced angel child in one syllable, we mustn’t be duped by it. Holding onto hope can be naïve and distract you from the reality.

I have an F minus in ‘letting go’. I’ve held onto the bruises on my heart for many years now. I carry them with me and even though they don’t fit well with certain company, I allow them to participate in the conversation from time to time. I also hold onto the fear manifested in my nightmares and I hold onto the guilt of a 1000 glasses of spilt milk.

Maybe it’s time to let go?

I read this quote the other day: “Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” It’s by Buddha. And I like it. Not just because Buddha mastered being buoyant and grounded at the same but because it doesn’t imply that we have to empty out our fears and worries like a chamber pot onto the street. It implies that ‘letting go’ is work in continuous progress. And perhaps it is less about letting go and more about deciding that today…we won’t be carrying the heavy load upon our shoulders.


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