Somebody bitchy sent me this email last night: If you are that smart, why are you not with McKinsey and the like?
Well, put it this way: When I graduated from University, one of the big four consulting companies approached and wanted me to be a part of their team. It was a company that everybody - from Management Engineering, Business Management, Economics, Psychology, and Organizational Development graduates - wanted to get into because "it looks good on the resume".
Me and one of my best friends - who now holds a Ph D in Mathematics and Marketing Science - were smirking: The measure of your being good is getting into the big four; the measure of your being great is being invited to get into the big four, having the option of saying no, and exercising that option.
A lot of disciplines think of the human mind as a rational creature. That the human being is rational at her core. But are we, really?
The irrationality of the human mind is interesting: it contorts our views and our human behavior models. It distorts schemas and other things that we have in our minds of human behavior. Yet this irrationality is also that which is perhaps at the cornerstone of our being human.
The complexity of our being human is perhaps found in our seeming irrationality. How and why we believe in a God and in religion, in ideals that are nonetheless beyond logic and science, in goals that are beyond reason.
We try to distill this complexity by assuming rationality - an assumption that is easily questioned by the things that we observe in our daily lives.
A good friend - on Saturday night, however, asked me via email: Could it be that underneath our seeming irrationality is a 'pure rationality' that unfortunately, we cannot define at the moment? Could it be that underneath the seeming drives of fulfilling desires and pleasures - which is sometimes assumed as part of the rationality of humans - is more than just that? Could it be possible that even in the "evil of greed" lies a kernel of good - and in the "altruism" of humans lies a kernel of evil?
I have no answer.
I can only try to be rational - but in so doing, be irrational.
Since my friends have been telling me that my blog posts have been really "oh so serious" - and I really can't think of something to talk about that is remotely related to work (which I guess is a good thing...), I am going through more of YouTube stuff that I found over the weekend.
This - I picked up - not because of the video, but because of the song. It's the song There's a Fine, Fine Line from Avenue Q. I saw Avenue Q, the musical in Las Vegas at the Wynn Hotel - then I saw it again on Broadway when I was in New York. I would say that it's one of the most beautiful, most innovative, most creative, and most controversial musicals I have ever seen. (Think of this: Jim Henson puppets making love onstage... Not a nice picture - yeah? But watch Avenue Q - and it'll be a blast!)
OK. Enough of that.
For those of you wanting thinking I have lost it, nope: not yet. It's just a slow weekend.
By the way, I have no idea where the video came from. But this is the only decent copy of the song I can find on YouTube.
If you know what the video is all about, let me know?
This is an article from Boing Boing on why knockoffs are good for fashion. It is an interesting viewpoint and cites that it is through the "massification" (i.e., the adoption of the masses of new fashion) that the fashion industry is pushed to create new trends thereby create better stuff for their portfolio in the next season.
I am not a fashionista - and I will not even claim that I am close to being one. But I do understand the logic behind this thinking: Since the fashion industry is built on continuous evolution, continual regeneration of ideas and designs, the massification of this season's trends kind of create a certain sense of urgency to create new trends and new designs amongst designers.
However, I am not entirely buying into the argument - here's why:
Look at the Louis Vuitton phenomenon in Asia. Almost everybody I know had a Louis Vuitton bag back in the early 2000s and the late 1990s. These days, however, almost everybody I know who had an LV bag had stayed clear of the brand.
Why? Because everybody else had it - and it's not because LV bags are cheaper these days. There are just too many knock-offs of the brand and the knock-offs are not entirely that bad. For a tenth of a price (I think - because I never really checked either's prices out), you get to have an LV bag.
But the mere fact that everybody could get it has driven away those who are willing to pay big bucks for an LV. Those who bought LV bags now had to be on the defensive - and say "This is a real one, not a knock-off..."
Are knock-offs hurting the business of LV? I am sure they do. And there must be a way to quantify these impacts.
And the same is true for other brands - I am sure that there is an impact from knock-offs.
So are knock-off good for fashion? I think it's a double-edged sword - and it all depends where you look at it from.
Evanescence - I am sure you've heard of them. This video is for "Bring Me To Life" - acoustic version. I have always Evanescence. I think the name in and of itself brings to mind something, mmm, profound and deep. Their first album spun daily in my CD player.
I have never been one to visit competitors' websites regularly (unless I am looking for a job, haha!). But I cannot help but gush over what DDB Matrix is offering its clients. I am simply in awe and amazed at the depth of their capabilities as mentioned/showcased in their Case Studies page.
Honestly, I have not worked with them - and the formula that they have pasted in their site is not "readable" (because it is very specific, of course, and very contextual - you need the background for you to understand it). BUT if indeed they do this, I would say "Wow!".
And whilst they are a competitor, I would say, "Guys, cool stuff. When are you coming to Asia?"
When I was younger and starting in the business of advertising and advising clients of what to do with their media investments, I was taught that "clients are God" - in the same way that for them "consumers were kings and queens" and "customers are always right".
I didn't have any objections then. I was 19. I was on my first account. And the first major account I handled was McDonald's in Manila - who I would say were one of the best clients in the world.
It was baptism by fire - and I stayed (willingly, I should add) at the office till midnight or 2am to finish presentations and reports in an office that was yet to link their ad monitoring service with their ratings services. I had to develop 5 media plan options for them.
And I did gladly do so - because I loved McDonald's - as a client, as a brand.
In my senior year, whilst I was doing my thesis and my overnight cases for Abnormal Psychology, they would allow us to buy only one cup of coffee, have refills, and stay for hours in their store right across the university and a few blocks away from my apartment.
I loved them.
Then my agency resigned McDonald's - in my viewpoint, it was "wrongful termination", if there was such a thing.
I would admit I cried when we resigned McDonald's and even considered moving to the company that took over the business then.
I had another client that I loved so much because of their honesty - PepsiCo Philippines. The client was fierce, demanding, and demanded nothing but perfection - from spellings to grammars to the strategic approach. But the lead client - the Country Marketing Director, MSNarciso - knew how to appreciate people. She would treat us out for dinners, drinks, and impromptu parties. It made it all worth it. They didn't have delusions of grandeur that they were better than Coke - they knew they were number 2 and they were struggling. Yet they yearned to be the best - to be the number one - to be profitable - to be seen not as the underdog, but as the fighter that they truly were and that they truly lived.
When I moved to Vietnam, I worked with Nestle's Portfolio - and again, I met a set of clients who were really demanding. But again, I was willing to take over the most menial of tasks (e.g., photocopying reports, typing broadcast orders in Vietnamese - ensuring I got them letters right in spite of not knowing what they meant, faxing broadcast orders and memos) just to get things right and on time. Why? Because they acknowledged my team's efforts - that we were undermanned and lean yet in their eyes, we were one mean team that was ready to protect their interests. Again, appreciation notes, emails, and impromptu parties - and even training programs to teach us what they believed in as a company and expand my team and my own knowledge of marketing and supply chain management.
MasterCard Southeast Asia was again another client that I really loved working with. Again, very demanding, perfectionist, with tight deadlines and with briefs that are not perfect. But again, they share their successes - and failures - with us. Drinks post-campaign, nice short emails acknowledging what we have done, recommendations to their partner-banks, "positive word of mouth". I just love them to bits.
And MSN - 24hour reverts on requests? No problem. Within the same day data-mining and chart collation? No worries. I have mastered Excel(R) and PowerPoint(R) enough to deliver the fastest time possible. And the short notes saying "Thanks; you're an angel!" makes all the difference. Again, I believe in their brands and their vision of their future. In fact, I share their vision of the future - of Software as a Service - and their realistic view that "search is a problem area; help us fix it".
I have been blessed to be honest. Working with clients that have pushed me to the limits (and to the verge of tears, sometimes) has been a blessing. Of course, it's not always rosy - like when I get grilled for not doing my due-diligence and for looking for escapes and quickies and cut-corners. And I take responsibility for that.
I have only fired one client in my entire career: And it was a decision that I got an earful from my boss - but an action for which I took a stand for.
There was this client that refused to believe any research that was conducted by third party research, that continually challenged the recommendations we've made after having gone through 15 revisions of a measly 500'000USD budget (which don't mean anything in the market). And they even demanded that both Client Services Director and me, the Media Head, to be present in the meetings.
In the final meeting, we had a cordial argument (if there's such a thing) on revision number 16 of the media flowchart (yes, not the strategy - the frigging flowchart!). Whilst she - the client was babbling - I was calculating the revenues that we were going to lose if I walked away from this client now. We were on a 1% commission for some strange reason - a compensation scheme that I inherited from my predecessor's predecessor. The revenues: 5'000USD - for one whole year
After double-checking this figure with the Finance Director who was just in the adjacent room, I told the client that "we can't seem to find any solution for you; I suggest that you look for another agency who can meet your needs. Obviously, we are not getting what you really want to achieve for the brand - and that we cannot deliver. My best professional advice for you is to just call for a pitch now - and rest assured, we will help you craft the pitch brief. It's just that, we won't participate in the pitch anymore."
The client was taken aback.
The Client Services Director was surprised - but I slipped her a note that said "lost revenues: 5'00USD - not even enough to cover your and my time". So she also changed her tone.
She tried explaining what she wanted again - which didn't really help because she really couldn't pinpoint why this media plan is wrong and why the creative executions which were merely adaptations from a global material was wrong.
But we stood firm.
We ended the meeting cordially. I started briefing my team to prepare the handover and do it in 2weeks' time. I started working on a pitch brief - a full brief that she never knew how to prepare, as well as a list of agencies who could take on her business. I called all my contacts - my competitors - and advised them to expect a call from her and to please treat her business well; she's just confused. Finance started to close her accounts and chase for unpaid bills that we had to foot in her behalf.
We sent her our resignation letter together with the brief, the handover plan and the timelines, and her decision-points, together with the invoices for more the payments to media vendors.
We never heard from her again.
I got the beating from my Managing Director and the Regional Managing Director - on why resign a client when we were in the red? Well, honesty" If by revision 10 we can't deliver what she wants and she can't tell us why it is still wrong, we will never get it right. I would rather that I used my time and my team's time on something else - perhaps, focusing on my bigger clients and be a better team for them.
I offered to pay half of the lost revenues of 5'000USD if they feel I was in the wrong. Honestly, I was going to make not just a principled stand on my decision - but also stake my money on my decision.
I have always believed that agency people or suppliers - whoever they may be, whatever service they may be providing to the company or to any firm - should be treated as partners. Even cleaning companies should be treated as partners. Even construction firms and construction workers should be treated as partners.
With respect. As humans. With civility. With honesty.
Money, profitability, revenues are important and all good. But once they start treating me or my team or my other partners in the firm as crap and less than human, they don't deserve us.
I wonder - how many agencies and companies feel the same way?
This post was inspired by this entry from INSIDECRM.Com: Here's the link for those of you who have the guts and the balls to stand up for the human in you and your team, to stand up for people who cannot stand up for themselves, to make a stand for decisions that may be controversial and could cost the firm some money. If indeed people and talent come first, then yes: Firing clients from hell should be an option - it should always be an option.
The Comprehensive R Archive Network I am a believer in making data analytics more accessible to the masses. R is a significant alternative to SPSS, SAS, and other stat software that cost an arm and a leg.