The Brain Tap Series: Interview 17 – Neil Perkin

It’s high time I dusted the cobwebs off the interview series. Who better to do that with than Neil Perkin? Famously of the dodgy goatee (I didn’t say that, he did!), Neil was the Director of Marketing & Strategy at IPC Media till a couple of weeks ago. Here’s what he has to say about media, Pingu and then some:

1. What is the most interesting job you’ve ever held and what lessons did you learn from it?

I should probably say my role at IPC Media where I was for a number of years and from which I continually learnt, but I’ve just left to set up my own business so I have a feeling that my learning curve in the short to medium-term future will be even steeper. Oh, and I once had a job in the cassette department of Tower Records (that shows my age) where I learned that Prince is even smaller in real life than you expect him to be.

2. Name one creative project or idea that made you wish you’d thought of it.

Not one creative project, but more a revolutionary funding platform for many. Kickstarter crowdsources micro-funding for “artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, journalists, inventors, and explorers”. Like Kiva, it’s the human stories that make it so compelling. Platforms to connect people like this are what the web was made for.

3. Name one site or service that you’d invest in if you were a venture capitalist.

I’ve been mildly obsessing about Local Motors (I wrote about them here, the ‘next generation’ US car company that use designs crowdsourced from a community of thousands of passionate advocates to build genuinely different cars which can be sold and serviced through a network local units. It turns the high cost, lengthy design process and the highly centralized manufacturing model of traditional car production completely on its head. And that’s why I like it.

4. Name your favourite fictional character and an existing gadget or service they’d find useful.

Slightly off brief but my youngest daughter was once really into Pingu – now there’s a penguin that could seriously benefit from Google Translate.

(Anjali’s note: LOL!)

5. Do you think that for brands to reach out to a young consumer base, it has to have a digital component?

Absolutely not. There are so many options that I don’t think any medium is an absolute must for reaching any audience. Having said that, digital is clearly embedded in young people’s lives and an excellent medium for reaching them and for amplifying and spreading strong ideas. The Coke Happiness Machine is a good recent example of that.

6. What are your main hobbies and how do they influence your work?

Last year I ran my first marathon and I’m doing the Virgin London Marathon this year. Distance running is quite a zen thing to do. When you’re out on a good long run, it’s good thinking time. So you often come up with good ideas. As long as you’re then not too knackered to do anything about them.

7. Who’d be the best person to play you in a movie about your life?

Anyone with a dodgy goatee. If not, there’s always Pingu.


Thanks, Neil!

Brain Tap Series: Interview 16 – Asi Sharabi

Back with the Brain Tap Series! Asi Sharabi is a planner at Poke London, and an all-round great guy. I met him a few months ago, and his words of advice at the time were a godsend. Many of you will be familiar with Asi’s blog, No Mans Blog. So without further ado:

The interview:
1.  You recently wrote about location-aware applications, a concept that I’ve been interested in for a while as well. What would the best location-aware application look like to you and what comes closest to it as of date?

The best location-aware app for me should be just like a knowledgeable concierge of a boutique hotel. It never approaches you but is always there when you need it. It’s recommendations are spot on and it focuses on the hidden gems. It will tell you about places and events you’d want to blog and twitter about. It is one that I can customise (e.g I’m only interested in bookshops, independent cinemas and pet shops), and learns my taste over time. I’m thinking customizable UnchainedGuide.

The best one i’ve seen to date is urbanspoon and that’s only because of the playful interface (see my post).

 2. Do you think the current state of the economy will have a long-lasting effect on the world of advertising and marketing, and if so, what will it be?

Oooh. That’s a tough one. I hope that the short or long-lasting effect will be more budgets shifting from traditional advertising to digital so we can see more targeted, innovative, measurable and effective comms. 

3. What are your main hobbies and how do they influence your work?

Currently my main hobby is my 12-week-old baby girl…apart from sleep deprivation it puts me in perspective in general and forces me to ask time and again – ‘why would anyone give a damn about this???’  

4.  What do you like most about what you do?

Spending 12 hours a day online is a double-edged sword. I guess that what I most like about my work is the ability to be WOWed every day, sometimes more than once. I feel extremely fortunate to live the future. To experience the revolution first hand, write about it, read about it and be an active participant in this truly historic socio-technological transformation. 

5. What, in your opinion, is the most creative work/campaign ever produced and why do you like it?

The most creative works ever produced are the works by Jonathan Harris. Not a commercial as such, although his time capsule for Yahoo! can be considered as one. We Feel Fine is a mesmerising exercise in passive interactivity and human emotions. I wish I had done that. (you can read an interview i had with him few years back here)

 6.  If you could start a company of your own, what would it be like?

It will be an agency that focuses on convincing marketing directors and CEOs to dedicate 50% of their media budgets to trying to change the world. So for example, if Sony would have been my client, I’d convince them to take 50% of the media budget of ‘Bravia Paint’ …

……and spend it on painting ugly and depressing council estates all over the UK (in collaboration with the residents) to make them places you want to live in – lively, colourful and optimistic. 

7. What’s your favourite quote?

Other people matter.  (Is that a quote? More like a life philosophy I guess).


Thanks, Asi!

Brain Tap Series – Interview 15: Jonathan Salem Baskin

On the Brain Tap series this week, may I introduce you to Jonathan Salem Baskin, president of Baskin Associates Inc., a consultancy that works with clients to make branding and marketing go above the remit of words and images. Jonathan’s work involves partnering with alliance companies in North America, Europe and Asia to integrate specialty skills to his projects – business intelligence, retail research, web development, design etc. He also has a joint venture with Quiet Storm in the UK. In addition, he is the author of the just-released Branding Only Works on Cattle: The New Way to Get Known (and drive your competitors crazy).  

The interview: 

1. From your experience working with brands around the world, what is the most crucial issue affecting marketing today? 
I think brand marketing is at a crossroads.  
We have forever pursued a definition of brands as a stand-alone from the other measures and statistical controls used elsewhere in the enterprise.  Branding has always been something fundamentally “different” from how, say, the supply chain was structured, or human resources functions managed.  Our fundamental conceit was that we — through our branding — could tell consumers what to think and, more importantly, attach feelings to products and services.
Now, with the invention of more targeted, real-time, and/or diffuse ways of communicating, it’s become harder to prove not just the relevance, but perhaps the very existence, of a brand marketing function separate from the rest of the activities in which a company (or its consumers) engage.  The real-time, 24/7 mediasphere in which we all live means that people no longer consume marketing, or engage with brands, as much as branding emerges from their experiences. 
So the issue is this: does brand marketing choose to redefine itself and find a new model for branding, or will we further distance ourselves from the enterprise with more extreme and rarified defenses of our beliefs?  
2. Name a case study that details a brand’s turnaround and its subsequent success with consumers. 
Well, I don’t think any brands turn around, per se: businesses do, and the brand marketing needs to follow it, not precede it.  
One notable example would be Xerox.  This company found itself effectively in a buggy-whip business (centered on device manufacturing), yet transformed its business model into information management (it’s largest revenue and profits last quarter came from consulting).
It was only after this reinvention that the company turned to a hoity-toity branding firm to refresh its branding.  In fact, it accomplished its turnaround under the umbrella of its ‘old’ brand. 
3. Name a campaign or event that you wish you’d been a part of.
The viral transmission of the QuickTime player via the trailers for the first of the second-generation “Star Wars” flicks.  This was one of the first, and most elegant, marriages of product and service, and drove trail (and subsequent adoption) via experience.  Simply brilliant.
4. Do you think that for brands to reach out to a young consumer base today, it has to have a digital component to its campaign? Why or why not?
Nope.  “Digital” is a term like “hip” or “with it,” and I think we’re going to look back at today’s utilization of the medium and laugh.  It is simply a means to an end, and I think we often forget the ultimate purpose for digital, or any other tool: sales.  I think we’d be shocked now (and, hopefully, laugh someday) if we added up two columns of marketing expenditures at a typical business that reaches out to a young consumer base today: first, one column would contain the total money spent on promoting digital “conversations” of various kinds, while the second would be money spent on more crass, direct sales efforts.  I’d make both numbers ratios by adding actual sales results under each.  OOPS, the conversation column would not yield a number, because we can’t link it to any business result, other than the self-referencing, heretofore mentioned “conversations.”
Ads, promotions, publicity, billboards, digital…nothing is a ‘have to’ without a purpose.
5. Apart from the internet and mobile phone, what has the single most important creation of the media and technology industries been in your lifetime and what impact has it had on your life so far?
Post-It Notes.  The physical stickies enabled me to literally ‘tag’ items in the real-world; they were the first artifact to enable experience of reality as hyper-media.  
6. Where do you derive inspiration for your work from?
I like to merge input from a variety of non-marketing sources, especially the sciences and arts. It’s far too easy to focus in on a subject area and lose sight of the context, not to mention the history that has lead up to it.  I’m inspired by the life of Buckminster Fuller, who showed that an individual can assume a priori to have something to offer to the world, and then spend a lifetime creating meaning and value through incessantly asking questions and being open to finding the answers…wherever and however they may arise.
7. If you could live in any part of the world, where would it be and what would you expect to achieve from the experience?
London, because the city (and country) is in a position to lead the other Western countries into a post-industrial future (and, in doing so, somewhat revive its pre-industrial past).  It would be fascinating to participate in the cultural and other experiential qualities of that transition, which is farther along there than in the U.S.
Thanks very much, Jonathan!

Brain Tap Series – Interview 14: George Parker

OK, so I must say I’ve completely enjoyed interacting with George Parker, this week’s interviewee, on this. He’s a laugh if there ever was one, and yet there are some pretty deep messages cloaked somewhere in his barbs. I don’t really think he needs an introduction – most people who read this site probably know him in person already. If you don’t, I hope it suffices to say that he’s a US-based advertising consultant, a very colourful, interesting character, and you can read the achievements of his long career here. You’ll also need to know in advance that the acronym BDA in Parker-speak refers to Big, Dumb Agencies!

The interview:

1. When you stare harder and harder at a painting, sometimes you figure something out that you would have missed the first five times. Given that you’ve spent over 30 years in ad land, do you think the BDA’s have any hidden nuggets of gold up their sleeves at all? In other words, are there any lessons to be learnt from them?

The number one lesson is don’t sell yourself to a conglomerate. Eventually you will be fucked, and turn into a BDA. That’s why Wieden continues to prosper and do good work. The only one who has got away with it so far is Goodby. ‘Cos Jeff and Rich have got Omnicom to trust them enough to leave them alone. The number two lesson can be summed up in the words of Jay Chiat… “I can’t wait to see how big we get, before we turn to shit.” It ALWAYS happens. And now the business is being run by bean counters, it happens even faster.

2. Everyone knows how reserved you are. If they don’t, they haven’t had the golden opportunity to meet you or hear you speak yet. Have you ever met anyone MORE – ahem, ‘reserved’ than you? If so, who?

Dozens… But most of them are dead now. Of the survivors, I’ll mention Bill Hamilton, the best Creative Director ever, Hubert Graf, the best Art Director ever, and Ivan “The Count” Horvath, the best drinker ever. (After me!)

3. What has the best gig of your life been and why?

“Agency Fireman” at Dorland’s. Conned my way into a unique job that paid shitloads of money, allowed me to go around the world shooting very expensive TV spots while staying in five star hotels, eating at Michelin four rosette restaurants, drinking fine wine and ravishing beautiful women. On top of all that, I answered to no one. Fucking brilliant!

4. Do you enjoy writing AdScam or AdHurl better? Tell us the difference between the two.

AdHurl, part of Know More Media, has gone tits up. Therefore, as they have stopped paying me, there’s no point in writing for them… Is there? Anyway, AdScam is all mine, therefore I can use extremely foul language and really get up everyone’s noses. Wonderful! I also do one for BrandRepublic in the UK, called MadScam. They don’t allow me to swear either. But I do. I just put asterisks between letters, like this… F*U*C*K. That way my posts go through the “Swear” filter … They haven’t cottoned on to it yet… Douchenozzles. When they do it will drive poor old Gordon Macmillan (the editor) nuts. That’s the kind of shit I like to stir up.

5. Who’d be the best person to play you in a movie about your life?

When we were both young, Orson Welles (the slim version). When I got older, Oliver Read. Who I used to drink with when I lived in Wimbledon. As you can guess, it usually ended up in a contest to see who could get more fucked up and thrown out of the pub first. More often than not, it ended in a tie.

6. What’s the most influential communications campaign you’ve ever seen? By ‘influential’, I mean a campaign that’s had an effect on the most number of people, according to you.

Apple’s 1984 commercial…

Which wasn’t a campaign; it wasn’t even a commercial… It was an EVENT… No one had ever done something like that before… And no one has since. Can you imagine asking a client to shoot the most expensive commercial ever made, testing it in focus groups and having it bomb, trying to sell the time and not being able to, so you are forced to run it… Then when it becomes the biggest thing since sliced bread… YOU ONLY RUN IT ONCE!!! Today, the client, and the agency would run the shit out of it. Therefore devaluing its impact. But, having said that… The BEST commercial ever made was the VW “Snow plough” spot…

Fucking brilliant. Then there’s all my shit, but modesty forbids.

7. Which country or region has the best body of advertising work you’ve come across so far? Name some of these campaigns, and tell us what other countries/regions can learn from them.

Some of the best work that’s ever run has come out of Sweden… Also Stockholm has the ultimate Ad Wankers hang out. The Café Opera Bar… Which is chock full of seven foot tall, blonde women, who if they like you, will buy you a drink. What the fuck is wrong with that? For the best work that’s never run… Brazil. You can see it every year at Cannes… Fucking douchenozzles!


Thanks would be too small a word to say, George, for this. I absolutely enjoyed it, hope you did too.

To the readers, I have to say that if any of you have questions about what happened to Dorland’s, this is what George said when I asked him myself:

Dorland’s was swallowed up in the early eighties by Saatchi who then rolled it into Cordiant, which then died an ugly death in 2003. As usual, you can blame the fucking Saatchi criminals.

Ha – ha – HA!!!!!

Brain Tap Series: Interview 13 – Noah Brier

Hola again. In this week’s interview, I’ve got Noah Brier, Head of Planning and Strategy at the Barbarian Group in New York, ruminating on all the things I asked. Recently, one of his endeavours, Brand Tags, a ‘collective experiment in brand perception’, was much talked-about. Previously, Noah was a strategist at Naked Communications, New York.

The interview:

1. What is the most interesting job you’ve ever held and what lessons did you learn from it?

I don’t know. I mean, I think most people (who voluntarily moved) would say their current job is their most interesting and I don’t think I’m an exception (otherwise I wouldn’t have joined up). In my month at The Barbarian Group, I’ve learned a lot about the role of strategy (and strategists) in a new kind of environment. I mean, I learned lots working at Naked as well, especially about how really large businesses run (I got to work quite closely on the business side of some very large consumer package goods companies). I also worked as a summer camp counselor, which was pretty awesome. I learned that it’s really fun (and tiring) to run around with little kids all day.

2. Does creativity need collaboration to flower? Can you name a project that best illustrates your idea of creativity?

Hmmm … well starting with the creativity/collaboration question: Yes and no. I guess I think it depends on how you define collaboration. I think creativity is ultimately a blending of ideas. It’s about taking things from different places and sticking it together, so in that way it’s about collaboration. However, if you’re talking about collaboration between people, I don’t think it’s required. Lots of people are creative on their own. With that said, collaboration is awesome and can help turn an otherwise one-dimensional idea into something amazing. So … I guess I didn’t really answer that one.

As for a project that best illustrates my idea of creativity: I think it exists everywhere. You’ve got creativity in business with search advertising, which for the first time gives companies the opportunity to target people at different times in the purchase process with amazing accuracy. Then you’ve got creativity in something like Jonathan Harris’s We Feel Fine, which combines design, programming and cultural data. Then you’ve got art: People doing amazing things and
coming up with totally new ideas. So I guess I could describe an almost unlimited number of ideas.

3. Apart from the internet, what has the single most important creation of the media and technology industries been in your lifetime and what impact has it had on your life so far?

I mean, the cellphone is pretty big. It’s had such an impact that I can’t really even explain it because I’m not quite sure what life was like without it anymore. Laptops are pretty important as well. Yeah, I like them. They allow me to have my entire life with me all the time. These aren’t particularly interesting answers, though. Seriously, I have to be able to come up with something better than that, right? Hmmmmmmm …

4. Which campaign or event has been the most influential of your generation? Why do you like it?

Campaign like advertising? If so I’m not really sure. I mean Nike has clearly set the direction for how to do marketing. Another interesting one I’ve been thinking about lately as a result of brand tags is Absolut. On the site, one of their biggest tags is “advertising.” It’s kind of amazing if you think about it: For a generation of people those Absolut ads weren’t ads at all, they were artwork for bedroom and dorm walls.

As for events, I think that’s easy: September 11th. I think you can pretty directly tie any number of current events to what happened that day. For me personally, I was in New York and watched the buildings fall from my window. It’s a day I won’t ever forget.

5. Name a website you think more people should be reading.

Um, Kevin Kelly’s website is a good one. He’s really brilliant. I guess more people should be reading that. The Barbarian Group blog is pretty awesome as well, I always read it and feel incredibly privileged to work with such brilliant folks. Nick, one of the IT guys, had an amazing post about data security at his doctor’s office the other day that really made me feel great to be part of such an awesome bunch. But I don’t know, people should be reading things that make the most sense to them. Probably wouldn’t hurt to read some more newspapers. News is good. With that said one of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot is how to add more serendipity to my reading. I think it’s really easy to fall into just reading things within your specific interest area/biases.

Here are some more:

Apart from Kevin Kelly, another person I don’t know (well): Umair Haque.
And four friends: Faris Yakob, Eric Nehrlich, Kyle Bunch, Ray Cha.

6. What’s your life’s motto?

I don’t really have one. My mom always tried to instill in me that I should treat others the way I’d like to be treated, so I guess that’s a good one. I totally believe in that and generally try to live my life that way.

7. If your life could be described by a colour, what would it be and why?

Green for no reason other than I’ve already built my website and printed business cards in that color and it would seem like a waste to go in a different direction at this point.


Thanks, Noah!

Brain Tap Series: Interview 12 – George Bryant

I haven’t been blogging for a while – but what better way to get back to it than an interview with a very interesting person – in this case, George Bryant, who is part of the team that has launched the London office of Brooklyn Brothers, the New York-based advertising agency (or, as Campaign calls it, ‘hotshop’!) George was a former managing partner at AMV BBDO in London. Here are his answers:

The interview:

1. What is the most interesting job you’ve ever held and what lessons did you learn from it?

Honestly, the one I’m in now as partner in our own place. You learn once and for all that there’s no option but to be yourself, utterly reassuring and pretty scary.

2. What is the one ad campaign or event that made you wish you’d been a part of it, and why?

I wish I’d launched Cloverfield, the movie. Brilliant idea to keep the whole thing a secret and launch a trailer that no one had seen coming. I also loved Droga5’s Tap Project, the Simpsons film launch and the Brooklyn Brothers’ hip hop film for Fuse.

3. What is the Next Big Thing in media going to be?

The oldest of all – the power of people and the realization that there is no substitute for talking honestly to them.

4. Apart from the internet, what has the single most important creation of the media industry been in your lifetime and what impact has it had on your life so far?

Britart’s branding of paving stones.

(Anjali’s note: There’s a whole PDF about that here. Brilliant stuff. The campaign, by Mother, also won the D&AD Gold Award for Ambient Media in 2001)

5. If you could start a company of your own, what would it be like?

This one, but worse.

6. Name a website you think more people should be reading.

Their own.

7. What’s your life’s motto?

Manners cost you nothing.


Thanks a ton, George. I appreciate the time you’ve taken over this!

The Brain Tap Series: Interview 11 – Gareth Kay

Gareth Kay kindly agreed to be part of my interview series, despite having quite a bit to deal with over in Boston. Hopefully, everyone who reads this has heard of Modernista!, the advertising agency that links directly to its Wikipedia site as its company site (for the time-being, anyway). I thought that was ridiculously creative – such a simple idea and no one thought of it till they did. Of course, no one else CAN do it now – one of those things where if they do try to, they’ll just be called copycats! Anyway, Gareth is Head of Planning at Modernista! and also blogs here. Here are some of this thoughts:

The interview:

1. What is the most interesting job you’ve ever had and what lessons did you learn from it that help you in your current role?

I learned a lot from interning at a record label about how internal politics suffocate great ideas, but I have mostly only ever worked in the ad industry (there’s a rather sad admission). I’ve been really lucky to work in very diverse agency environments and learn from some great planners who all had very different approaches. This has taught me two things I think: at agencies it’s culture that makes the difference and there is no one way to ‘do’ planning. As a result, I probably over obsess about the culture of Modernista! and have tried to build a department with a diversity of planning approaches and experiences.

2. Modernista was much talked about earlier this year for its different-looking website. How did the team come up with the idea of linking it directly to its Wikipedia site and is it a long-term or short-term strategy?

As an agency, Modernista! has always refreshed its website every year or so. The idea behind this iteration was pretty simple – use the web as your website. It allows us to experience the reality that all brands face – that your identity today is distributed across numerous sites and not controlled or centralized in one place – and also to allow us to experiment with how we build a presence on various ‘web 2.0’ sites.

3. Name one ad campaign or event that you wish you’d been a part of, and why.

Simple. Tate Tracks by Fallon London.

Really tough brief – get teenagers into an art gallery – solved so elegantly and powerfully. Realize that what the audience is into is music. Get musicians in to write unique tracks inspired by a piece of art in the gallery. Have that song only available at first at the Tate Modern by the piece of art that inspired it. Later stick it all on the web. Advertise the content you created.

I love this campaign because it’s about solving the business problem through creativity not just doing a cool looking execution. And it makes us think about what advertising can be when we try a little harder.


Thanks for this, Gareth.

The Brain Tap Series: Interview 10 – Faris Yakob

Faris Yakob is a Digital Ninja (he’s lucky enough to be able to give himself a job title he likes!) at Naked Communications in New York, and pretty well-known around the ad blogosphere (adosphere??!!). I got him to answer 7 questions – some familiar to readers of this blog, some not, but in any case, the answers are all intriguing. Here’s what he said:

The interview:

1. What is the most interesting job you’ve ever held and what lessons did you learn from it?

Management Consultant / You don’t need to work in an industry to have an opinion about how it works
Writer at Maxim Magazine / The photoshoots are never held in the office
Promo dude at record label / If your boss makes the tea, he is also going to be a great boss
Digital Ninja at Naked / If you get to pick your own title, you are likely to be happy in your work

2. What is the one ad campaign or event that made you wish you’d been a part of it, and why?

It’s too hard to think of one big thing – here’s loads of little ones.

TV ad: Kia Ora’s I’ll be your dog spot is the only thing I remember before the age of 14.

Other TV ad: Gondry’s Smirnoff ad – The only thing I remember from my teenage years.

Thing: Guinness Book of World Records – best selling book in the world after the bible [probably] is branded content utility culture making awesomeness.

Intergame: NIN Year Zero, due to the sheer scale of its ambition.

Web Balloon Race: The Orange Internet Balloon Race.

Print Ad: ‘If you’re driving’ by Howard Gossage.

Radio spot: The last Hamlet ad [Slightly industry indulgent but still]

3. What is the Next Big Thing in media going to be?

I’m not sure what this means. But the next big thing in the world is going to be end merging of the web and the world – real world meta tagging, augmented reality, hyperconnectivity.

4. Apart from the internet, what has the single most important creation of the media industry been in your lifetime and what impact has it had on your life so far?

Language. Words are where I live.

5. If you could start a company of your own, what would it be like?

It would own proprietary technology that Google wants to buy.

6. Name one website you think more people should be going to (apart from your blog!!). Why do you like it? It’s good because I do nothing for charity, but loads of my friends seem to do stuff worth sponsoring, so I can assuage my guilt with e-payments.

7. What’s your life’s motto?

Talent Imitates, Genius Steals


A rocking set of answers! Thanks, Faris!

The Brain Tap Series: Interview 9 – Stuart Smith

This week on my interview series we have Stuart Smith, Head of Planning at Wieden + Kennedy, London. His answers are the embodiment of the adage ‘Brevity is the soul of wit’, and if you read them below, you’ll see why. He’s a man of few words, that’s for sure, but those words he chooses well. This is what he looks like (similar artistic renditions of and by other employees cover a whole wall of their London office, and they have socks strung up as well. Very interesting atmosphere to work in, I should think!):

The interview:

1. What is the most interesting job you’ve ever held and what lessons did you learn from it?

Police line-up extra. I learned that it pays (about £20) to look average.

2. What has been the single most important creation of the media industry in your lifetime and what impact has it had on your life so far?

The obvious answer is in the web, but in the interests of saying something else I’ll say PVRs and DVD boxsets, which together mean I never have to watch another TV ad again.

3. What motto do you live by? Why is it your motto?

I like life. It’s something to do.


Thanks, Stuart!

The Brain Tap Series: Interview 8 – Hervé Hannequin

This week in my interview series, I’ve got Hervé Hannequin, Head of International Planning at WCRS giving us some food for thought. Hervé started his career in Germany and then moved to London in 1995. At WCRS, he’s been leading strategic development since 2004 and last year took on his current role. He’s told me he’s very flattered to be part of this series. Personally, I’m glad he agreed to be part of this – if you look at his answers, you’ll realise that he is an interesting person, which is the reason why I first approached him with my questions!

The interview:

1. What is the most interesting job you’ve ever had and what lessons did you learn from it that help you in your current role?

I was lucky enough to work for Krug as a marketing consultant about 5 years ago.

These days Krug is widely distributed and name-checked by the likes of Jay-Z and others. So it’s hard to remember that at the beginning of the decade few people had heard of it besides wine buffs. Product interrogation was our first task – obviously. We dutifully tasted all the key products (Grande Cuvée, the vintages, Rosé and of course the elusive Clos Du Mesnil) – but also their main competitors. It was a tough job but somebody had to do it.

Joking aside, we soon realised that, thanks to the passion of the Krug family who was – and still is – at the helm of the company, the product was superlative. And you don’t have to take my philistine word for it. Experts around the world all agree on this. But even my unrefined palate can tell that Krug is to champagne what Rolls-Royce is to motor cars. The brand however, exacting to the point of severity, was disconnected from the festive values of champagne. It was adored by a small group of wine enthusiasts, but as Rémi Krug put it “there’s a great danger in excessive worship of the brand without consumption”.

Our job was to articulate the Krug ‘magic’ and widen its appeal. We felt that whilst Dom Pérignon and Cristal were outer-directed statements, Krug was a more complex and rewarding experience. Krug is a revelation every time – regardless of how much or little you know about wine. Our conviction was that smart was the new black. If Dom owned ‘power’ and Cristal ‘glamour’, then Krug should stand for something much more personal and subjective, like ‘inspiration’. In other words, we should make Krug the thinking person’s champagne.

I’m extremely proud of the work that the Krug team, led by Mark Cornell (incidentally, one of the best clients I’ve ever worked with) did on the back of our recommendations. One idea in particular was a brilliant interpretation of our strategy. The team opened a number of Krug Rooms in exclusive locations around the world to host private dinners. In London, it can be found next to the kitchen of the Dorchester hotel; in Tokyo , it’s at Restaurant Tanga in the Akasaka district. These rooms are by invitation only so they have great word-of-mouth value. The idea is that whilst people who drink Cristal want to be seen, people who enjoy Krug prefer privacy.

The main lesson I drew from my experience on Krug is that whilst style is nothing without substance, substance alone is not always enough.

2. Which do you think is more important – analytical skills or creative skills, and why?

I’m tempted to sit on the fence and argue that both are equally important. Great planners I know certainly have both in large measures. However, if pushed to choose I would pick creativity, mainly because of the two, it’s by far the rarest commodity in the business world.

3. Name one ad campaign or event you wish you’d been a part of, and why?

Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. He redefines politics and makes it relevant again. He embodies a certain idea of America that has been crushed by eight years of Bush. An idea based on hope, youth, positive change, tolerance and – a quality rarely experienced in politics these days – integrity. I admire the fact that he doesn’t make promises, but raises challenges that involve all Americans. I particularly admire the fact that, even under attack, he has never ceased to be true to his moral principles. The world needs more politicians like Barack Obama.


Thanks very much for your time, Hervé. I’m flattered you were a part of this!