Part of the transportation system. He built bridges. Big ones, really big ones, and lots of small ones. Connected people who for generates lived apart divided by the land and water.Helped out when other people's bridges fell down to understand why. Where the math and logic failed. Understood what it took for the math and logic to work logiclly for the people who used them.
He was just an engineer. Built things that helped vehicles and people move around. Pretty simple.
Going chaotically from a global masterbrand strategy meeting, to a TV film production meeting to a social media architecture session it becomes clear our industry is pretty simple. Despite all the silly titles, hierarchy, hype and pomposity, we all do one of two things.
There are engineers. The people who make the ways for ideas to get around.
There are the designers - the people who create and design the ideas that get around via the engineering.
The good ones are creative in their problem solving. The bad ones steal, repeat, are fearful and work within the system we know. True to engineers or designers.
Seems like we are all deciding whether we are engineers or designers, too many trying to do both or ignoring the existence of the other. Designers trying to engineer. Engineers trying to design. Some do spectacularly, most face spectacular failure.
Pick a side, and then it all seems to make a lot more sense. Then shake the hand of the other side and go off and make something spectacular.
Advertisng, marketing, communications or whatever else you want to call it exists for the sake of creating disproportionate gains for a brand.
Budgeting, and all those excel spread sheets kepts way down in hard drive account men and at the finger tips of a finance director are becoming a problem.
Not because they exist, of course not, they must but they are starting to control us, nefariously and quietly. On cell at a time.
I am not talking about the drive for profitability or revenue growth. No, what is concerning is how excel documents are driving strategic decisions about how we communicate.
If you marketing budget is broken out specifically against media channels - TV, print, digtial, events, promotions, you have already strategically decided your creative solutions for the year. Biases have immediately set and the creative challenge is not to solve a business challenge but to fill buckets.
If you are a bit better and have an integrated budget and can shift between mediums based on the creative strategy and ideas that emerge - you may be better. But it can easily become pigs at the trogh, the first and most aggressive get the most food. Timelines are still often driven by film and they sure have a way of canabalizing everyone else's budgets. Nobody can spend like a production company, except maybe a small special breed of Sheiks. Hence, the center of gravity of a campagn/brand will be driven who gets the budget support.
Unfortunately, this all is where the massive swath of things called digital get crowded out. Not because it is not important but because more discipline is needed to define its role. Exactly what business problem you intend to solve for that specific brand with something that comes from the land of 11's and 00's.
Digital is nimble, flexible, scalable and all the other good things. But, brands, like the folks on Wall Street invest in certainty or at least clear risk reward. The nimbleness, flexibility and scalabilty of digital makes it a bit too ambiguous. A lot too ambiguous now that we are past the "if you don't go digital you will die" era of dogma that let the first decade of digitalness to happen.
It is too easy to sit in a room and move numbers up and down on a spreadsheet that then dictate what a brands strategy will be.
The brands that are doing great things are very good at knowing how to spend their money. A clear why and not because of a corporate model with decades of legacy or a formula announced in a press release by executives.
Deep down at the bottom of many great brands, the ones we all admire, are probably some smart folks with their hands on Excel charts with discipline and good information empowering strategic decisions with budgets, not driving them.
The locations change but the ritual is the same. A paper in a location away from home on a Saturday morning to sit, have a sense of place and fodder for contemplation.
Since moving abroad initial thoughts to own a Kindle or iPad have been parked to not overlook the opportunity to get a sense of the local, and even pan continental, sense of rythme, news cycle and topics of interest. With laptops and iPhones it is easy enough, at times too easy, to consume the day with news from what I have always read.
A folder national paper under arm is also a symbol of a foreigner/expat wanting to join the society they live in. Handy, when at a remote farm in the northern tip of the Beaujolais whether other guests eye curiously those from afar until mutual dismay over a disgraced national football team unites conversation.
Often, France feels many years behind in technology, it is, but that forces deeper justification for doing something with technology. Hype and doing what everyone else is doing is of little value. The fundamentally have to be firmly grasp and that is probably a very good thing.
It also means the traditions we are familiar with, are as strong as ever. The newspaper you carry identifies your political beleif and social class. The book on the metro you interests. It is curiously nice to know a little bit about the people around you, even if you don't know them. It seems others feel the same way towards me.